Stich Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology, May 2009
Lecture 3: The Evolution of Morality

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Lecture Abstract: The theory of norm psychology sketched in the previous lecture suggests that people will often internalize norms that reduce their own biological fitness. It might be thought that no such psychological mechanism could possibly evolve. But that would be a mistake. In this talk I’ll explain why it was all but inevitable that natural selection would lead to norm psychology in our species, once we had acquired the ability to learn from one another. The account I’ll offer explains why many human norms foster cooperative or pro-social behavior. It also explains why many human norms lead to ethnic hatred and morally repugnant behavior. If the account is correct, these norms will be very difficult to dislodge.

This is the third of four Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology by Professor Stephen Stich (Philosophy, Rutgers University), who was Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield from March to May 2009.

Lecture recorded on 18 May 2009

Lecture 3: The Evolution of Morality


Leverhulme Trust: Stich Lectures These lectures are made possible through the generous support of the Leverhulme Trust.