Might a “prosocial” morality be better?

Why limit moral norms to advocating altruistic cooperation, as Altruistic Cooperation morality might be thought to imply? History readily shows that self-interested economic cooperation can be radically more efficient than altruistic cooperation in providing a society with material goods. Perhaps a better instrumental choice for groups and individuals would be a “prosocial” morality that advocates as morally admirable 1) both altruistic and self-interested cooperation and 2) behaviors such as donating that may not be obviously connected to cooperation. Prosocial behavior can be any actions that benefit other people or society as a whole. What is wrong with that?

There is nothing wrong with advocating prosocial behaviors. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with advocating purely self-interested behaviors or mental attitudes that increase personal well-being, but have nothing directly to do with interactions with other people. Many examples of such advocacy are found in virtue ethics and Buddhism and can be powerful means of increasing well-being in a society. Advocating such self-interested behaviors is an ancient part of ethics and morality.

Therefore, both prosocial behaviors and some purely self-interested behaviors and attitudes will likely be high on the list of answers to the broad question, “How should I live?”

But what if we are not attempting to answer that very difficult question, but are trying to answer two simpler questions “What moral standards should groups enforce?” and “What rationally justifies me accepting the burdens of those enforced standards?” The answers to these two simpler questions can, at best, only partially answer the “How should I live?” question.

I am arguing that Evolutionary Morality is a better instrumental choice than any available alternative for answering these two specific questions about enforced cultural norms. I do not claim it, by itself, is the best instrumental choice for “How should I live?”

By limiting the subject to enforced cultural norms (whose violations are commonly thought to deserve punishment) we are limiting the subject to a perhaps unique sub-category of morality.  This is the part of morality that appears to 1) have an objective basis in reality independent of the existence of people and 2) has inherent emotional hooks and motivation because is about the section forces (the benefits of altruistic cooperation in groups) responsible for much of our biology based psychology that makes us social animals, including our experience of durable well-being. As of yet, I see no basis for other categories of morality having a comparable objective basis in physical reality, independent of the existence of people and even biology.

Evolutionary Morality is only about enforced moral norms. It is silent concerning unenforced moral norms, which may quite sensibly advocate self-interested prosocial behaviors and even purely self-interested behaviors having nothing directly to do with other people.

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