No.19, November 1997

A Report on the Forum:

Evolutionary Understanding of Humanity: Humanities, Social Sciences, and The Theory of Evolution

Nov.8 (Saturday), 1997
Department of Economics, Room No.2, University of Tokyo, Hongo

M.Daly and M.Wilson (Univ. of McMaster, Canada)
M.Ruse (Univ. of Guelph, Canada)
S.Uchii (Kyoto Univ.)
O.Sakura (Yokohama National Univ.)
Chair: Mariko Hasegawa (Senshu Univ.)

(1) Abstracts and short notes about the speakers
(2) S.Uchii, "Comments on Professor Ruse's View" (full text)

(1) Abstracts and short notes about the speakers

Martin Daly and Margo Wilson
"The Truth about Benizara: A Case Study in Evolutionary Social Science"

According to an old folktale, "Benizara was a very honest and gentle
girl, but her stepmother was very cruel to her." Cinderella is Benizara's European counterpart. The mistreated stepchild is one the stock characters of folklore around the world. The cross-cultural ubiquity of such stories is revealing, for they would not persist as popular folktales without some universal resonance with the human condition. Is it truly the case that stepparents are relatively explitative, neglectful, and cruel? Do children really incur risks of various sorts when one parent dies or departs and the remaining parent takes a new partner? Although this might seem to be a rather obvious question, it was overlooked by family relations and child abuse researchers who lack an evolutionary perspective.

We have conducted epidemiological studiews of child abuse, including fatal assaults on children, in Canada, the United States, England and Wales. In all these studes choldren living with a genetic parent and a stepparent (a person living as opposite-sex partner with the child's parent and thereby in loco parentis to the resident child) suffer greatly elevated rates of the most severe forms of child maltreatment. To an evolutionist, the most interesting puzzle is not why steprelationships entail a risk of conflict and violence, but why they are so prevalent and so often successful. (Reproduced by permission of the authors)

○Martin Daly & Margo Wilson 両博士は人間行動研究に進化生物学アプロー
チを導入した草分け的存在であり、共著で出版した"Sex, Evolution and Behavior" (1978, 1983改訂)は、人間行動生態学の基本テキストとしていまなお読みつがれている。両博士は、1980年代以降、つぎつぎと人間の暴力やリスク行動(とくに殺人と幼児虐待)に関する原著論文を著し、それらの研究を1988年の共著 "Homicide" に集大成した。両博士の研究の特徴は、単に行動レベルだけでなく、人間の心理レベルにまで踏み込んで、、その由来を進化生態学の理論に照らして分析するところにあり、欧米では進化心理学の創設者の一人として広く認められている。 Human Behavior and Evolution Society の発足時(1988年)からの主要メンバーとしても活躍し、Daly 博士は同学会の元会長、Wilson 博士は現会長をそれぞれ務めてこられた。また、現在は、Evolution and Human Behavior誌の共同編集長の任にもあたられている。(Reproduced by permission of Toshikazu Hasegawa)

Michael Ruse
"Evolution and Ethics: The Sociobiological Approach"

Traditional evolutionary ethics "social Darwinism," has long been an object of philosophical scorn. In this essay, I suggest the attempt to use biology to justify moral claims is doomed. However, recent exciting advances in the theory of social evolution-----"sociobiology"-----invite one to try again to relate morality to biology. It is this which I try to do, suggesting that this can indeed be done, in a very fruitful manner. The trick is to take a neo-Humean approach, denying ultimate foundations and trying rather to show how it is that ethics, "a collective illusion of the genes," is a function of the human evolutionary move to sociality. Thus one avoids mistaken attempts to bridge the is/ought barrier but is able nevertheless to answer all of those traditional questions about morality that have a genuine solution.
(Reproduced by permission of the author)

○ Ruse 博士はUniversity of Guelph (Ontario, Canada)の哲学科と動物学科の教授。生物学、とくに進化論と倫理の関係について研究しており、倫理規範の生物学的基盤を探求しています。多くの著書がありますが、なかでも"Darwinisn Defended" (1982), "Taking Darwin Seriously" (1986), "Evolutionary Naturalism" (1995), "Monad to Man" (1996) などが代表作です。また、生物学哲学をあつかう世界で唯一の学術専門誌 "Biology and Philosophy" を1986年に創刊し、以来編集長もつとめています。生物学だけでなく、哲学、倫理学、科学史、科学哲学、人文学一般に御興味をおもちの方にも有意義な講演だと思います。(Reproduced by permission of Osamu Sakura)

(2) Comments on Professor Ruse's View
Soshichi Uchii (Kyoto University)

Evolutionary Ethics in the Past: Professor Ruse has, in the first place, reviewed the past attempts of evolutionary ethics such as Spencer's, and pointed out that these attempts were not as foolish as one might suppose at first sight. I think his review is fair, and I should like to support his conclusion on the whole. However, since Professor Ruse has emphasized that Spencer, as well as others including Edward Wilson, assumed some sort of progress when he speaks of evolution, and since Professor Ruse has ended this topic just at that, I wish to add a more specific point. The only point I wish to say is that Spencer's ethics is essentially that of hedonism-----the doctrine that pleasure is good in itself and pain is evil in itself, and therefore we should maximize the balance of pleasure over pain-----; this is a sort of utilitarianism disguised as an evolutionary ethics, and he failed to provide any justification of this hedonism. He simply assumed that evolution tends to increase the quantity of pleasure, as well as the quantity and the diversity of life.

Sociobiology: Professor Ruse then turns his attention to recent sociobiology. The focus of attention is cooperation and altruism; altruism in biological sense is the tendency to increasse the chance of survival and reproduction, by means of cooperative behavior, which is not necessarily conscious behavior; whereas altruism in literal or ethical sense is the tendency to increase others' benefits by our intentional and conscious behavior. Since human morality may be regarded, from the biological point of view, as an enterprise of altruism in biological sense, he pointed out the most relevant biological results, such as Hamilton's "kin selection" and Trivers's "reciprocal altruism". And Professor Ruse's point is that human morality can be construed as a means for realising biological altruism by means of literal altruism. I agree that this view is quite illuminating, and although I am not quite sure whether this view can be regarded as established, I myself am quite sympathetic with this view, in view of some of the primatologists's recent observations, such as Frans de Waal's recent book Good Natured (1996).

Three Ways of "Altruism": More specifically, Professor Ruse has suggested three ways for realizing biological altruism. (1) One is by means of instincts or innate propensities, like ants and bees. (2) The second is by rational deliberation or calculation, by means of high intelligence and enough information. (3) The third is by regulating behavior by fairly general rules, which are supported by strong feelings. And I take it that Professor Ruse view is that the third way is typical in human morality, and its distinctive feature is the set of strong feelings called "moral sentiments or feelings"; because of these feelings accompanying duties, we clearly distinguish them from mere desires or personal preferences. In Professor Ruse's '86 book Taking Darwin Seriously, he called this third way "a middle-road option" taken by natural selection. This is a nice expression. The "middle-road" means that, given enough but limited intelligence, man needs efficient way to control his bahavior, but he also needs enough flexibility for that. And I think most moral philosophers will agree with this. So far I have no quarrel with Professor Ruse's view.

Ethics as a "Collective Illusion": However, when Professor Ruse begins to analyze human morality on the basis of these results of evolutionary biology, I have to begin to disagree with him. First of all, I am deeply troubled when he characterizes normative ethics as a "collective illusion" caused by our genes. By this awful expression, he means that we all suppose that there are something objective in this world or some other world "out there" which correspond our judgments of right and wrong, good and evil. Thus, if we are convinced that the muder by poisonous gas (in the subway) is wrong, there must be something in this world or somewhere else that establishes this wrongness; such belief in objective existence for wrongness, rightness, goodness, etc., Professor Ruse calls an illusion, and since almost all men are supposed to have such a belief, he calls it a "collective illusion".

Do People Have a "Collective Illusion"?: Now, I don't think many people have such a belief, even though they may believe in the necessity of morality. The long history of metaethics since G. E. Moore has revealed the following: Ordinary people do not have any clear understanding of moral concepts such as "right and wrong", "good and evil", although they are quite ccompetent in using them; and if they are pressed to answer such questions as "what does the word 'good' mean?", they are quite at a loss; it is a philosophical analysis that provides an answer to such questions, but such philosophical answers must be tested against the actual uses of such words or concepts in our ordinary moral discourse. I would like to suggest that the theory which says that our normative ethics is a "collective illusion" which assumes some queer existence where there are not any such, will not survive such tests.

What is Necessary for Normative Ethics to Work?: Since I do not want to bother the audience who are mainly interested in biology, not in metaethics, I wish to be as brief as possible. So let me put the matter this way. To believe in normative ethics, in at least some part of it, means that we accept such norms or value-judgments and discipline our behavior according to them. And admitting that our strong tendencies to conform to the norms of morality may come from our genes, does not commit us to have such a queer belief; although there may be some people who are quite ready to have it. In judging that such a belief is queer, Professor Ruse and I agree; but despite this agreement, he goes on to call normative ethics "illusion", whereas I would say normative ethics is more or less "rational" enterprize-----"rational" in what sense? Well, it is rational to choose suitable means in order to achieve a certain end, or in order to satisfy our preferences-----and in a similar sense, we may say normative ethics can be rational.
In particular, supposing that Professor Ruse's view about empirical facts about human evolution is correct, that we are ethical animals with strong moral feelings, it may well be rational for us to obey certain moral rules in order to cooperate, in order to satisfy our moral feelings, which are, or which support, one of our most important preferences; that is, the preferences to get along with other people, especially with those close to us. And what is significant with these preferences is that we cannot disregard these preferences, even if we try hard, much less we can eliminate them. Thus they are bound to appear and reappear again and again in our moral thinking. Darwin has noticed this feature, and expressed it as the "social instinct". And what I wish to point out is that admitting this feature does not imply that this feature imposes us a belief in a queer existence of goodness, rightness, or whatever else. Such a belief is a philosopher's construct-----for instance, G.E. Moore believed in a non-natural, sui generis, simple, and objective property of goodness!

Justification Impossible and Unnecessary?: I dwelled on the last point because that is directly connected with the most important point I wish to mention. That is the question of justification. I quite agree with Professor Ruse's view that we have to distinguish Ought from Is, and that we cannot justify an ought-statement by deriving it from factual premisses; that sort of inference commits a logical fallacy of one sort or another. Being myself a student of non-cognitivism in metaethics for a long time, I dislike and hate 'naturalistic fallacy' probably more than Professor Ruse does. However, I think that Professor Ruse's conclusion with respect to the justification of normative statements is somehow premature. He concludes that justification is impossible, and that justification is unnecessary. Here, I sharply disagree with him.

We Need Justification: In the first place, we do need some sort of justification for our moral view. For instance, about a hundred years ago, many eminent persons, including first-rate scientists, were supporters of eugenics. Today, most people publicly denouce eugenics, and I take it that their moral judgment about eugenics is diametrically opposed to the moral judgment of the past supporters. Of course, we have to take into consideration the facts which we know, but those supporters didn't know a hundred years ago. Granting all this, still we can imagine the following situation: A morally decent person A judges that we ought to approve of a certain eugenic policy, whereas another equally decent person B judges that we ought not; now what should we do with this situation? Obviously we cannot accept both of A's and B's judgments. We have to choose either one of them, or reject both of them, thus expressing our attitude of indifference between them. But if we decide to accept either one of their judgments, it seems to me that we certainly need a justification for this. Are we ready to say that there is no justification for supporting either, and leave the matter just at that?

Justification is Possible: In the second place, I think it is possible to give a justification for our moral judgment, without bridging the gap between Is and Ought. As I have already indicated, I have been a non-cognitivist for a long time. A moral judgment is essentially a prescription indicating what to do and what not to do, and its function is quite different from a descriptive statement whose function is to describe a fact. And it is essential that a moral judgment has this prescriptive function, because otherwise making a moral judgment would have nothihg to do with our behavior. Thus there is a genuine gap between Is and Ought. However, our action and practical decision, including moral judgment, can be rational or irrational.

An Example: Suppose, as a simplest model case, that Alice wants to drive a car. She is 20 years old, has normal eyesight, fairly intelligent to be able to understand traffic regulations, but she doesn't have a driver's license. To give a moral flavor to this example, let us suppose she doesn't want to drive illegally. Now what ought she to do? Of course she ought to take a driver's license, and if she can afford, she ought to go to a driver's school, which is a most convenient way to take a license. And I think these ought-statements can be justified, given her preferences and relevant facts. How? Roughly as follows:

(1) Alice has a strong preference for driving.
(2) But she doesn't want to drive illegally.
(3) Alice has enough abilities to master driving; and in particular,she can take a driver's license if she wants.
(4) Taking a driver's license is the only legal means for driving.
(5) Therefore, she ought to take a driver's license.

How to Justify Ought: Well, you may point out that this is an inference from Is to Ought, and that therefore I committed a naturalistic fallacy! Yes and No. Yes, if we interpret this inference literally, and leaves the matter just at that. But No, if we rewrite this inference and give another interpretation which takes the gap between Is and Ought well into consideration. Le me do this.
Let's agree that (5) doesn't logically follow from (1)-(4). Instead, we accept the ought-statement (5) on the basis of preferences in (1) and (2), and of factual information provided by (3) and (4). Suppose you were Alice (and here, we exercise sympathetic imagination). Then you have the same preferences as she does. Since these preferences provide motives for practical decision or choice, these can also provide motives for acceptance or rejection of a prescription such as (5). Now, as I have said already, choices or decisions can be rational or irrational, depending on how such prescriptions indicate means for satisfying given preferences. In our case, given the factual information of (3) and (4), we can conclude (logically) that taking a driver's license is the only means for satisfying both preferences of (1) and (2). Therefore, it is rational for you (now supposed to be in Alice's position) to accept the ought of (5), which indicates the right means. And this rationality applies to Alice, you, and me, as long as we have similar preferences, and similar factual relations hold. That's why the expression of Ought is appropriate, which claims some sort of universality.
This is essentially the logic of justification of Ought on the basis of Is.* Preferences played a key role, in that they provided the volitional basis for accepting a prescription; whereas factual information provided the basis of rationality. In addition, we have to exercise our faulty of sympathy, but evolutionary biology can explain why we have this faculty, and how this could be developed by natural selection. And let me add that this logic is acceptable even to David Hume, because the gap between Is and Ought is left wide open; and in addition, he emphasizes the importance of sympathy in morals. And I don't think we have to say that the justification of Ought is any sort of illusion.

*(Note added, Nov.25, 1997)
The "Ought" discussed above may be a prudential Ought, not necessarily a moral Ought. However, I have shown in detail, in my 1996 book, how this sort of justification can be extended to moral Ought. For the justification of moral Ought, we have to make more essential and extended uses of sympathy.

Editor's Notes

Here is my "personal proceeding" of the Forum. Since I myself was one of the commentators, I allow myself the liberty of reproducing the whole text of my comments. For related topics, see my Darwin on the Evolution of Morality.
This Forum was organized in order to promote evolutionary understanding of humans, by Toshikazu and Mariko Hasegawa, and Osamu Sakura; nearly 100 people gathered, and also a very active workshop was held the next day.

Sad news came. Carl G. Hempel, known as "Peter" among his friends, passed away last Sunday (Nov. 9). Here is an extract from Paul Benacerraf's mail forwarded to me from the Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh:

It is with great sadness that I must inform you that Peter Hempel passed away yesterday (Nov. 9), at 1:00 PM.

Those of us who had, as friends, colleagues or students, the extraordinary blessing of being touched personally by his life will always cherish that gift above all else. But no one in the world we inhabit failed to feel the impact of his personality, his teaching, and his thought. Peter will be cremated in a private ceremony. I know that the department will want to mark his passage with a suitable memorial in the not-too-distant future; but thought will have to be given to exactly how.

In themeantime, the University (Princeton) flag will be flown at half-mast to mark his passing. . . .


Photo from Essays in Honor of Carl G. Hempel,
edited by N. Rescher, Reidel, 1969 (click for a larger picture).

Carl Hempel (1905-1997) is one of the most important founders of philosophy of science; he was among the most influencial philosophers in the United States such as Carnap, Reichenbach, and Feigl. Analysis of scientific explanation, and of problems of theoretical terms are probably the most important contributions Hempel has made to philosophy of science.

Soshichi Uchii
November 14, 1997

Last modified, Nov. 29, 2008