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Moral AnimalsIdeals and Constraints in Moral Theory$
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Catherine Wilson

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199267675

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0199267677.001.0001

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Morality as a System of Advantage‐Reducing Imperatives

Morality as a System of Advantage‐Reducing Imperatives

(p.1) 1 Morality as a System of Advantage‐Reducing Imperatives
Moral Animals

Catherine Wilson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Discusses the evolution of human morality from the proto‐morality of our primate ancestors. The dominance of some individuals and groups by others is taken to be the essential condition of the formulation of moral rules, which are to be distinguished from taboo prohibitions and other social norms. The historical evolution towards universalism in the application of moral rules in the face of empirical differences between human beings is argued to be insufficiently explained by evolutionary and game‐theoretic accounts of the origins of morality, to the extent that they posit agents as equal in strength and intelligence. Morality is a scalar phenomenon, with unrestrained self‐interest and advantage‐seeking lying at one pole and hypermoral abnegation at the other. Hobbes’ Theorem, which states that increments of morality added to a society contribute to the happiness and security of individuals, it is not unrestrictedly true.

Keywords:   dominance, evolution, Hobbes’ Theorem, rules, taboo, universalism

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