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Iwanami Shinsho Moraru no Kigen (The Origin of Morality – A quest from experimental social science)


208 pages, paperback pocket edition




March 22, 2017



Published by

Iwanami Shoten

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Moraru no Kigen

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Wisdom derives from humanities and social sciences and relates to fundamental aspects of human nature cultivated over millennia, such as values, ethics, and morality. How does it relate to the knowledge of natural sciences, in other words, various empirical facts that have been unveiled by brain science, evolutionary biology, primatology, behavioral science, and information science? Based on the themes of sociality, altruism, empathy, and justice, this book is an integrative attempt of humanities and sciences to explore the possibilities that moral wisdom is not completely detached from knowledge of natural science, but it is deeply tied to it.
A decisive event that prompted this book was the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Aggressive remarks against political opponents, immigrants, and foreign nationals shook the emotions and beliefs of people who were discontent with the liberal regime and elites in the country and were amplified on the Internet as “post truth,” irrespective of objectively verifiable facts. Meanwhile, the liberal candidate made a dismissive remark about supporters of her opponent, describing them as “deplorables.” It was a powerful eye-opener that the U.S., a country I arbitrarily professed to know quite well, presented with such magnitude an eruption of a social “tribal divide” on morality. That election made me think once again about “individual morality” and its foundation.
In this book, experimental social science is introduced as an approach to consider the origin of morality. Many people are not familiar with experimental social science, as this is not an established discipline not only in Japan, but anywhere else in the world. It is a developing movement trying to systematically consider human and social behaviors across the boundaries of individual academic disciplines focusing on both experiments in a broad sense and model building. What accelerates the movement is the development made over the past 10 years in that game theory has gained recognition as a common language in the social sciences and the increasing acceptance of adaptation and evolution (see also my “How Are Social Rules Determined?” Frontier Experimental Social Science 6, published by Keiso Shobo).
There is a multi-layered sense of diffidence and tension involved in discussing “morality” and “justice” in the post-truth era. Nevertheless, how should we design a society inclusive of “future/there/they” given that the human mind is susceptible to the power of “now/here/we,” and how should the humanities and social sciences address this question? This is the imminent challenge that places a great deal of responsibility upon experimental social science.

(Written by Tatsuya Kameda, Professor of Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2018)

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