Posted: May 14, 2020 8:58 pm
by zoon
Hermit wrote:
zoon wrote:If an individual who has broken a rule was coerced into doing so, then there’s no point in going to the trouble of punishing them.

Behaviour conditioning via aversion therapy works just as well without having to invoke free will, personal responsibility, blame and the entire moralistic crap that goes with it.

Aversion therapy is extremely limited in scope and is also inflexible, it can’t be used, for example, to get people to drive below 30 mph on one stretch of road and below 50 mph on another (at least without an extraordinary amount of effort, which would be wasted if the speed limits changed to 20 and 60). We don’t yet know nearly enough about humans as mechanisms to control them in anything like the detail which is possible with the moral systems that are seen in every functioning human society (supplemented by legal systems in large societies).

I do agree with you that the words “punishment” and “moral” come with supernatural overtones that have no basis in reality. If “punishment” is taken to be an action with which someone can be threatened to influence their behaviour, and “morality” is a society’s system of rules and punishments, then the supernatural element is lost? What remains is an evolved pattern of behaviour for coordinating a group's actions to everyone's benefit, which, so far, still works better than anything developed by scientists.

It’s the moralising insistence on altruism which grates, when only kin altruism can be expected to evolve through natural selection? Altruism is not essential for this type of cooperation to work, only enough social intelligence to recognise that the rules of the society need to benefit other people as well as oneself, if cooperation is to be achieved. At the same time, this extensive calculated cooperation would never have evolved through natural selection without kin altruism (citing the paper linked below, not for the first time), and kin altruism also makes it more robust: cooperation is less likely to break down if everyone has a network of kin across society.

(The 2018 paper is “The coevolution of cooperation and cognition in humans”, linked here)