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Additional info for Altruism (Concepts in the Social Sciences)
As Janet Radcliffe-Richards points out: ‘[m]oral behaviour, whatever its details, must involve the capacity to subject your own interests for the good of others, or to the requirements of moral principles of other kinds’ (Radcliffe-Richards 2000: 154). The very idea of comparing one’s own and others’ interests, and deciding that, sometimes at least, the former should yield to the latter, presupposes a notion of moral agency that is simply absent from the evolutionary perspective on animal behaviour.
Co-operative theories all claim, then, that co-operative behaviour between two kin would be more advantageous for both parties, if related, than competitive behaviour, in terms of genetic survival. Kerrypress Ltd – Typeset in XML A Division: chap03 F Sequential 7 JOBNAME: SM − MSEL PAGE: 8 SESS: 10 OUTPUT: Wed Aug 8 12:23:36 2007 SUM: 4013069C /production/mcgraw−hill/booksxml/scoseg/chap03 46 Altruism Kin selection is one example of a co-operative strategy theory (we shall consider some others shortly).
However, sociobiologists are often too quick in inferring conclusions about the moral behaviour of human beings simply from their genetic adaptations: their arguments which bridge this gap are often quite poor. They tend to blur the boundary between the strict evolutionary definition of altruism given above and moral – or vernacular – definitions. For one thing, this jumps what moral philosophers have called the is/ought gap. Evolution is simply a process. We may be entitled to draw some conclusions from it about how humans (and other animals) have behaved, morally or otherwise, but we cannot ground moral values concerning how we ought to behave in a set of merely evolutionary facts.