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Sunday, May 8, 2005

The Evolution of Ethics, or Why We're Good

When I say that "virtue and wisdom are synonymous" I mean that there is no distinction between the "smart thing to do" and the "virtuous thing to do". We are better off doing what's right and much evil behavior comes out of the misunderstanding of that simple fact.

Complex systems theory has lead to a number of experiments and computer models which seek to understand the evolution of our behaviors and cooperation. Ethics, being a system for cooperating with one another, is therefore explained much by these studies. A fellow going by the username "pragmatist" on the forums at "I love Philosophy" recently alerted me to a link on one such study.

See their numbers 1-4 in the conclusion. In it, researchers show the evolutionary benefits to compassion (1), justice (2), mercy (3), and principles (4) (albeit on a very simple scale and referred to by different terms).

Link to Axelrod's Tournament

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