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Moral Tribes

Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene

9:24am, December 20, 2013


Monks, mobsters and everyone else heed moral codes, even if these codes seem incomprehensible or repellent to outsiders. All moral thinking boils down to two basic conflicts, writes philosopher and neuroscientist Greene: “me versus us” and “us versus them.”

His argument goes like this: In the small tribes that dominated human evolution, moral rules emerged as a way to encourage individuals to put the best interests of a home group — “us” — ahead of “me.” Moral systems also prompted tribal people to value “us” over competing groups, or “them.”

“Me versus us” morality works pretty well by relying on intuitions, such as a widespread impulse to punish comrades who don’t contribute their fair share, Greene says. But in &ldquo

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