Sharing our normative worlds: A theory of normative thinking

Dissertation, Australian National University (2017)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
This thesis focuses on the evolution of human social norm psychology. More precisely, I want to show how the emergence of our distinctive capacity to follow social norms and make social normative judgments is connected to the lineage explanation of our capacity to form shared intentions, and how such capacity is related to a diverse cluster of prototypical moral judgments. I argue that in explaining the evolution of this form of normative cognition we also require an understanding of the developmental trajectory of this capacity. For this purpose, the thesis is organized as follow. In the first chapter, I make some methodological remarks and provide the general overview and plan for the dissertation. In the second chapter, I explain what my explanatory target is and why it matters. On the view I am defending, shared intentional psychology gives rise to a special form of psychology that enables us to engage in social normative thinking. These norms are represented as shared intentional states. Moral psychology, in contrast, is more diverse. For moral judgments define a quite heterogeneous class of mental states—although some moral judgments may involve the representation and execution of norms, certainly not all of them do. I show that although much of our distinctive social norm psychology can be explained within the framework of shared intentionality, moral judgments cannot be unified in the same way. In the third chapter, I provide the baseline of social-cognitive capacities that serve as starting point for my lineage explanation. I argue that hominin social cognition was for a very long period of our evolutionary history essentially a matter of low-level cognitive and motivational processes. On this picture, bottom-up affective processes regulated the social lives of early hominins without requiring any special top-down mechanism of normative thinking such as a capacity for understanding and representing social norms. In the fourth chapter, I argue that human-like social norm psychology evolved as a result of the selective pressures that gave rise to shared intentionality, especially the demands that came from collective hunting. Yet collective hunting was not the whole story of the evolution of shared intentionality, for our capacity to form shared intentional mental states emerged from the interplay between the selective pressures that led to cooperative breeding in humans as well as organized, goal-oriented, collective hunting. Thus, I propose an evo-devo account of shared intentionality and its normative dimension since I argue that explaining the evolution of this particular form of normative thinking crucially depends on information about the developmental trajectory of this capacity. Finally, in the fifth chapter, I focus on how social norms are acquired and how the way we learn them gives rise to some prototypical cluster of moral judgments. Thus, this chapter returns to some of themes and arguments of the first chapter by explaining how the distinction between moral judgments and nonmoral judgments can be culturally transmitted.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Upload history
First archival date: 2017-09-28
Latest version: 1 (2017-09-28)
View other versions
Added to PP index

Total views
896 ( #5,321 of 2,445,029 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
90 ( #6,849 of 2,445,029 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.