Many of today’s most pressing problems – climate change, political polarization, equal access to education – are complex in nature, giving rise to both practical and ethical concerns. The burgeoning field of Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) harnesses the expertise and methods from both the social sciences and philosophy to make meaningful progress on these multifaceted issues.
This speaker series serves as a collaborative nexus, bringing together social scientists and philosophers to discuss and disseminate cutting-edge research at the heart of PPE.
141 Park Hall
The Power of the Dark Side: Evolutionary Routes to Spite
Acts of altruism are costly, but beneficial to others. How is it possible for altruism to arise and overcome the pull of selfish tendencies? Many explanations have been offered, and now, failures of cooperation and acts of harm are often seen as instances where selfishness overwhelms otherwise prosocial tendencies. I argue there is a darker side to social behavior, one that is neither selfish, nor prosocial. Spite, costly harming behavior, seems to occur in both humans and other animals. Yet, its study has been neglected in comparison to altruism and cooperation. Spite presents an evolutionary puzzle. If it generates no net benefit, how could it emerge and why would it persist? Some scholars argue that cases of spite are merely apparent and are really forms of selfishness or even indirect altruism. Using evolutionary game theory, I explore some less-known ways that spite may evolve. These possibilities present philosophical challenges to contemporary approaches for understanding social behaviors. Moreover, they suggest that spite is not mere selfishness and may have surprising connections to fairness and cooperation.
Rory's interests are in game theory and the philosophy of science. He's published on cooperation, convention, and social norms. He is currently writing a book (with Patrick Forber) on the evolutionary origins of spite and punishment.
Matthew's interests are in experimental philosophy and political philosophy. He's written extensively about immigration and is currently writing a book about the role normative concepts play in solving practical problems (tentatively titled The Fruitfulness of Normative Concepts). He also edited Advances in Experimental Political Philosophy.
Valerie works in social and political philosophy and the philosophy of the social sciences. She's written about social sorting, implicit bias and how social scientific findings about injustice are incorporated into normative theorizing.
Nadia works in the philosophy of the social sciences. She focuses on the philosophy of modeling, with an eye toward the epistemic and non-epistemic challenges modelers face.