21/3 – Cooperation and Morals

Module Leader:
Gergely Kertész
2021-2022 Spring
Immersion 1
Natural Sciences

The course immerses students into theories of cooperation and moral behaviour. On the one hand we will approach cooperation as an important development in the history of evolution and of humans in particular and so we will take a look at it from the point of view of evolutionary biology and psychology. On the other hand it is also our aim to take a look at cooperation from the point of view of moral theory.

Cooperation is at the heart of the success of our species and of many others and it seems that much of what our morality is about is achieving cooperation among humans. It is a fact that we are good cooperators and we are manifesting this capacity much of the time, however not always. Therefore, it is important to understand, and to explain the causes of both our cooperative and competitive behavioural patterns. An evolutionary approach is really helpful with respect to this task.

As expert cooperators we expect each-other to conform to certain more or less altruistic behavioural patterns. We express disappointment and condemnation when confronted with deviations from these norms and praise behaviour that conforms to these norms. Some of these norms can be made explicit in terms of basic moral principles the proper application of which helps us in maintaining our societies and can also be understood from the point of view of evolutionary theory as answers to certain evolutionary challenges.

When one aims to convince others to cooperate, or tries to create settings that motivate people to cooperate, knowledge of human nature and moral discourse is equally indispensable. So, anyone who aims to work with people, organisations or in a political context can benefit from the study of these topics.

The module is suitable for students with no or limited knowledge in the topic, but it is fairly useful to have a basic understanding of modern evolutionary theory. The module is suggested for students interested in biology, psychology, moral philosophy or game theory.

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