The role of norm externalisation in the evolution of cooperation

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2019-08-30
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en
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Abstract
In a recent article, Kyle Stanford gives an evolutionary account of what he terms “externalisation”, understood as “our distinctive tendency to objectify or externalise moral demands and obligations” (Stanford, 2018, p.1). According to Stanford, externalisation is a distinctive feature of human moral psychology, which consists in our experience of the demands of morality as externally imposed on us. Externalisation is adaptive, he claims, because it enables cooperation and protects it against free riders by influencing our partner selection.Stanford’s proposal, although certainly innovative and intriguing, is not without its problems. I argue that the most important of these are a lack of conceptual clarity, confusion over the norm domain to which externalisation applies, and doubtful usefulness of externalisation in partner selection in early human societies. Finally, I sketch out a potential mechanism which could result in norm externalisation, and propose some possible alternative functions of it in the evolution of cooperation.
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Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen
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