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The Origins of MoralityAn Evolutionary Account$
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Dennis Krebs

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199778232

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199778232.001.0001

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The Expansion and Refinement of the Moral Senses in the Human Species

The Expansion and Refinement of the Moral Senses in the Human Species

(p.217) 17 The Expansion and Refinement of the Moral Senses in the Human Species
The Origins of Morality

Dennis L. Krebs

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents an account of how the primitive moral sense possessed by early humans and other primates evolved into the complex sense of morality possessed by modern humans. Mental mechanisms that endow people with a sense of morality evolved in ancestral environments as tools in strategic social interactions. Although people use these tools to advance their adaptive interests, the self-serving biases inherent in them are constrained in a variety of ways, including the reactions of others. Perspective-taking, which originally evolved to enable people to advance their interests in strategic social interactions by anticipating how others would respond to their behaviors, mediated the expansion and refinement of the human conscience. Research that has mapped the brain regions that are activated by moral problems has demonstrated that people may derive moral judgments from “old brain” and from “new brain” structures, and that these structures may interact in a variety of ways.

Keywords:   complex moral sense, moral reasoning, moral judgment, strategic interaction, self-serving biases, perspective-taking, old brain mechanisms, new brain mechanisms

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