Tribal Morality and the Ethical Other: The Tension Between Modern Moral Aspirations and Evolved Moral Dispositions

Tribal Morality and the Ethical Other: The Tension Between Modern Moral Aspirations and Evolved Moral Dispositions

by Charles Wright – [ Journal of Dialogue Studies, Vol 3 No 1 ]

Video

Abstract

Scholars concerned with dialogical understanding and the negotiation of fundamental ethical disagreement in pluralistic modern societies have drawn attention to the intimate relationship among dialogue, perspective taking and mutual understanding. However, while these capacities endure as modern moral ideals, evolutionary biological accounts of social cooperation and social scientific investigations of human behaviour both suggest that humankind’s ideals may have outstripped its evolved moral sensibilities. While these sensibilities are well suited to maintaining co-operative relations among members of the same social group, in the case of outsiders, the propensity is instead to withdraw moral recognition and to treat the outsider as a thing. This essay first considers twentieth and twenty-first century scholars’ attention to the relationships among dialogue, perspective taking and mutual understanding, noting this work’s trajectory towards a robust endorsement of perspective taking as an essential feature of dialogical and intercultural understanding. It then turns to the work of evolutionary biologists and social scientists, whose research into the tribal character of human morality explains why dialogue with, and taking the perspective of, members of different groups is so hard. The essay finishes by reviewing findings from a particular research tradition in social psychology: intergroup contact theory. This has identified the conditions under which people’s evolved propensity to show favouritism
Related Articles
Reflection: The Challenge and Power of Dialogue
Pedagogy of Care and Dialogue: A Theoretical Review of Approaches to Moral Education
‘Lived Faith’ as an Approach to Inter- Religious Dialogue – Designing for Discussion
Faith, Peace Building, and Intra-Community Dialogue in South Yorkshire, UK
Philosophical Hermeneutics and Comparative Political Theory
“Holding Oneself Open in a Conversation” – Gadamer’s Philosophical Hermeneutics and the Ethics of Dialogue
’Stir It Up’: Contestation and the Dialogue in the Artistic Practice of the Twin of Twins
Involving Disadvantaged People in Dialogue: Arguments and Examples from Mental Health Care
Civic Dialogue: Attending to Locality and Recovering Monologue
Integrity and Dialogue
A Critique of Dialogue in Philosophical Hermeneutics
’Just Send Me Word’: the Promise of Dialogue
Bohmian Dialogue: a Critical Retrospective of Bohm’s Approach to Dialogue as a Practice of Collective Communication
The Dalai Lama’s Dialogues
Studying Dialogue - Some Reflections
On Dialogue Studies