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Egenis · Events

The Evolutionary Programme in Social Philosophy: Explanatory (Perhaps) but not Prescriptive

Seminar   17.06.2008






Professor Francesco Guala, Department of Sociology, University of Exeter

Organised by



University of Exeter,Egenis,Byrne House,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJ

Room no: GF7, Byrne House

Event details

Time: 3:30 - 5:00 PM

Evolutionary game theory promises to explain the emergence of norms of cooperation and to impose constraints on the range of reforms that are available to policy-makers. I argue that, whatever the merits of the explanatory project, the prescriptive one is unlikely to deliver what it promises. Evolutionary games provide at best incomplete explanations of human cooperative behaviour, and as such cannot be relied upon for policy purposes. Moreover, even if evolutionary game theory could provide complete explanations, such explanations would not prescribe anything at all. Suggestions to the contrary, I argue, are based on a first-year logical confusion between arguments and explanations. As a matter of fact any substantial constraint on institutional reform must be based on an understanding of the proximate causes of cooperation. Such understanding is more likely to come from empirical studies in psychology, experimental economics and anthropology than from evolutionary game theory.

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