Moral cognition as a Nash product maximizer: An evolutionary contractualist account of morality

Jean-Baptiste André (Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France)

October 4, 2022, 11:30–12:30


Room Auditorium4


Our goal in this paper is to use an evolutionary approach to explain the existence and design-features of human moral cognition. Our approach is based on the premise that human beings are under selection to appear as good cooperative investments. Hence they face a trade-off between maximizing the immediate gains of each social interaction, and maximizing its long-term reputational effects. In a simple 2-player model, we show that this trade-off leads individuals to maximize the generalized Nash product at evolutionary equilibrium, i.e., to behave according to the generalized Nash bargaining solution. We infer from this result the theoretical proposition that morality is a domain-general calculator of this bargaining solution. We then proceed to describe the generic consequences of this approach: (i) everyone in a social interaction deserves to receive a net benefit, (ii) people ought to act in ways that would maximize social welfare if everyone was acting in the same way, (iii) all domains of social behavior can be moralized, (iv) moral duties can seem both principled and non-contractual, and (v) morality shall depend on the context. Next, we apply the approach to some of the main areas of social life and show that it allows to explain, with a single logic, the entire set of what are generally considered to be different moral domains. Lastly, we discuss the relationship between this account of morality and other evolutionary accounts of morality and cooperation.


Jean-Baptiste André (Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France), Moral cognition as a Nash product maximizer: An evolutionary contractualist account of morality, IAST General Seminar, Toulouse: IAST, October 4, 2022, 11:30–12:30, room Auditorium4.