LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives


SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Archives


SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE@LIST.UVM.EDU


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Home

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE Home

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  January 2003

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE January 2003

Subject:

Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment

From:

Human Nature Review <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 16 Jan 2003 17:23:51 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (191 lines)

Human Nature Review  2003 Volume 3: 12-14 ( 16 January )
URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/nesse.html

Book Review

Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment
edited by Randolph M. Nesse
New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2001.

Reviewed by William D. Casebeer, PhD, Department of Philosophy, HQ USAFA/DFPY,
2354 Fairchild Drive, Suite 1A10, US Air Force Academy, CO 80840, USA.

Nature is red in tooth and claw. The type of creature produced by evolution is
the powerful loner, who knows when to cheat and can do it well: he is a kind of
Nietzschean übermensch who breaks the conventions of sociability and morality
with one powerful swipe of his well-oiled and bloodied fighting appendage. Or
so the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson would have you believe.1 To which I say:
poppycock. With regards to paving the way for the popular reception of
Darwinian evolution (or the lack thereof!), this characterization of the types
of organisms produced by the struggle for survival has done far more harm than
good. Randolph Nesse, the editor of the Russell Sage Foundation's volume
"Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment," has assembled a wonderful
collection of essays that explores the explanatory successes and limits of the
red-in-tooth-and-claw worldview. Nature's evolutionary processes have produced
creatures, such as (but not only) human beings, capable of committing
themselves to the nurture of social norms, moral dictates, and group welfare,
even when such commitment is harmful to any individual's interests narrowly
construed. Our capacity to commit ourselves to these things is at the very
heart of our social life. Explaining how such a capacity could have arisen, and
how it is rooted in basic evolved psychological processes, is the task of this
seminal volume. Diverse and multi-disciplinary, it's sure to become a
well-cited classic in sociobiological circles and deserves a wider readership.

Nesse contributes very useful opening and closing chapters. His definition of a
commitment is "an act or signal that gives up options in order to influence
someone's behavior by changing incentives or expectations." Nesse identifies
four types of commitment: (1) intrinsically self-enforcing ("burning your
bridges behind you"), (2) enforced by incentives controlled by others (such as
a contractual obligation), (3) enforced by a concern for reputation ("you have
offended my honor, sir"), and (4) enforced by emotional states (such as
feelings of guilt or obligation). Any single commitment may be enforced by
several of these incentives. The challenge for evolutionary theorists is to
explain plausibly how these categories of incentives and their enforcements
could have arisen.

Full text
http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/nesse.html
Other articles and reviews at http://human-nature.com/nibbs/contents.html

____________

Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment
Edited by Randolph M. Nesse
Russell Sage Press, New York, 2001
AMAZON - US
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0871546221/darwinanddarwini
AMAZON - UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0871546221/humannaturecom

General information about the book is available at:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~nesse/eccbookinfo.htm

Link to Russell Sage Press information and order form,
with access to Contents, Authors, and text of Chapter 1:
http://www.russellsage.org/publications/titles/evolutioncapacity.htm

PRÉCIS

Commitment is at the core of social life.  We live in a social fabric woven
from a warp of promises and a weft of threats, and we spend much of our
lives deciding which commitments are credible, and trying to manage our own
commitments and reputations. Classical economics and sociobiology sometimes
seem to suggest that this should not be too hard, because people should
generally act in ways that benefit themselves or their genes. While
reciprocity and kin selection are indeed powerful principles, attempts to
force all behavior into their Procrustean bed have aroused much intellectual
consternation and moral indignation.  This conflict has deepened the rift
between biological and social sciences. Commitment offers a bridge across
this chasm.  In this book, some of the world's most distinguished
researchers examine the nature of commitment, and the question of whether
our capacities for making, assessing and keeping commitments have been
shaped by natural selection.  Many commitments are fairly straightforward
attempts influence others by giving up options and thereby making it
worthwhile to fulfill the commitment.  Examples include burning your bridges
behind you or signing a contract.  However many commitments are not enforced
by such tangible incentives.  These subjective commitments are enforced by
pledges of reputation and by emotions. Some are benevolent, such as a
promise of life-long love.  Others are not, such as a threat to murder a
straying spouse. Although some such commitments may seem irrational in the
extreme, they nonetheless influence us.  Commitment thus offers a possible
evolutionary explanation for irrational passions that are otherwise
difficult to explain, and for our moral capacities.

------------------------------------------------------

CONTENTS

Forward-- Herbert Gintis

Introduction and Overview
1.   The Evolution of Subjective Commitment-Randolph M. Nesse

Section I-Core ideas from Economics
2.   Commitment: Deliberate vs. Voluntary-Thomas C. Schelling
3.   Cooperation through Emotional Commitment -Robert Frank
4.   Game-theoretic Interpretations of Commitment-Jack Hirshleifer

Section II-Commitment in Animals
5.   Threat displays in animal communication: handicaps, reliability, and
commitments-
     Eldridge S. Adams
6.   Subjective commitment in non-humans: What should we be looking for,
     and where should be looking?-Lee Alan Dugatkin
7.   Grunt, Girneys and good Intentions: The Origins of Commitment in
Nonhuman Primates-
     Joan B. Silk

Section III-Commitment in Humans
8.   Honor and faking "honorability"-Dov Cohen and Joe Vandello
9.   The Biology of Commitment to Groups:  A Tribal Instincts Hypothesis
     Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd
10.  Morality and Commitment-Michael Ruse

Section IV-Commitment in Social Organizations: Law, Psychiatry and Religion
11.  Commitment in the Clinic-Randolph M. Nesse
12.  Law and the Biology of Commitment-Oliver R. Goodenough
13.  Religion as Commitment-William Irons

Conclusion
14.  The Future of Commitment-Randolph M. Nesse


DUST JACKET DESCRIPTION
Commitment is a powerful social strategy whose pervasiveness is often not
recognized, perhaps because it is somewhat paradoxical.  Commitments involve
giving up options in order to influence others.  Some, such as burning your
bridges behind you or signing a contract, change incentives in ways that
make fulfilling the commitment advantageous.  Other commitments are enforced
by more intangible factors such as reputation and emotion.  Such subjective
commitments are commonplace, but it is hard to understand why people believe
them.  This book brings together 12 distinguished researchers from
economics, ethology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, medicine and law
to examine the nature of commitment in unprecedented detail.  They address
the question of whether our capacities for commitments have been shaped by
natural selection.  They find examples of commitment everywhere in human
social life, and they describe how social selection may have shaped
specialized mental mechanisms for making and assessing subjective
commitments.  These mechanisms may help to account for emotional behavior
that otherwise seems irrational, and perhaps also for our capacity for
genuine morality.  They may also offer a bridge across the rift between
biological and social approaches to human nature.

DUST JACKET QUOTES

"If the genes of the self-serving are more likely to be perpetuated in
succeeding generations, how it is that so many of us forgo self-interest in
order to honor our commitments, devote large parts of our lives to the quest
for knowledge, defending animal rights, human rights, or remaining true to a
cause past reason?  We humans routinely behave better than conventional
evolutionary theory predicts we should.  Evolution and the Capacity for
Commitment resolves this paradox and in doing so, extends sociobiological
theory to more fully encompass idiosyncrasies of the human heart.  This is a
revelatory book that carries us beyond premature conclusion about innate
selfishness that, if accepted, erode human relationships based on any other
premise.  Any one looking for a rigorous alternative to Darwin's 'universal
acid,' should read this book."
                                                ---Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

"This is a very valuable contribution to our understanding of commitment
which no serious student of the subject will wish to miss."      ---Robert
Trivers

"Nothing is more basic to the human condition than the capacity for
commitment, and nothing is more important to the capacity than its
biological underpinnings and evolution.  Randolph Nesse, serving as editor
and connecting essayist, and the other authors of Evolution and the Capacity
for Commitment are among the leaders in and around this newly emerging field
of scholarship."                ---Edward O. Wilson

"In the 1970s, the word 'selfish' as kidnapped from common language to be
applied to genes.  This metaphor, however, did not say much about human
psychology.  Exploring the emotional make up of our species while firmly
staying within an evolutionary framework, the volume spells out better than
any before what is wrong with a narrow focus on human selfishness."

                                              ---Frans deWaal

Link to Russell Sage Foundation Publications website,
with order form, Contents, Author information, and text of Chapter 1:
http://www.russellsage.org/publications/titles/evolutioncapacity.htm

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
May 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LIST.UVM.EDU

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager