The evolutionary roots of moral responsibility

Philosophy of Science 90 (4):817-835 (2023)
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Judging a person as morally responsible involves believing that certain responses (such as punishment, reward, or expressions of blame or praise) can be justifiably directed at the person. This paper develops an account of the evolution of moral responsibility judgment that adopts Michael Tomasello’s two-step theory of the evolution of morality and borrows also from Christopher Boehm’s work. The main hypothesis defended is that moral responsibility judgment originally evolved as an adaptation that enabled groups of cooperative individuals to hold free riders responsible more safely by acting in a coordinated way.

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Marcelo Fischborn
Instituto Federal Farroupilha


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