The Evolutionary Contractualist Account of Morality

With Jean-Baptiste André, I have developed the Biological Contract Theory, an evolutionary theory of morality inspired by contractualist philosophers (Hobbes, Rousseau, Rawls, Gauthier) and aiming at explaining the main features of morality.

Starters (from the shortest to the longest)

Baumard, N. (2014) Morality Is in Our Brain, in Our Genes, and Even in the Structure of the Universe,Center for Humans and Nature

Baumard, N. & Sheskin, M. (2014) Partner Choice and the Evolution of a Contractualist Morality, in Decety, J. & Wheatley, T., The Moral Brain, M.I.T. Press.

Baumard, N., André, J.B. et Sperber, D. (2013) A Mutualistic Theory of Morality: The Evolution of Fairness by Partner Choice, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Target article, 36 (1).

Baumard, N. (2016) The Origins of Fairness : How Evolution Explains our Human Nature, Oxford University Press, Oxford(translation of Comment nous sommes devenus moraux : Une histoire naturelle du bien et du mal, Odile Jacob, Paris, 2010)

For French speakers, Stéphane Debove has made a series of Youtube videos on the Biological Contract Theory.

Theoretical papers

André, J., Debove, S., Fitouchi, L., & Baumard, N. (2022,). Moral cognition as a Nash product maximizer: An evolutionary contractualist account of morality.

Geoffroy, F., Baumard, N., André, JB., (2019) Why cooperation is not running away, PCI Evol. Biol. (review here)

Debove, S., Baumard, N. and André, J.-B. (2017) On the evolutionary origins of equity, PloS one, 12(9), e0184459

Debove, S., Baumard, N., & Andre, J. B. (2016). Models of the evolution of fairness in the ultimatum game: a review and classification. Evolution and Human Behavior.

Debove, S., Baumard, N. & André, J.B., (2015) Evolution of equal division among unequal partners, Evolution, 69: 561–569.

André, J.B. & Baumard, N. (2011) Social opportunities and the evolution of fairness, Journal of Theoretical Biology. 289:128–135.

André, J.B. & Baumard, N. (2011) The evolution of fairness in a biological market, Evolution, 65, 1.

Experimental papers

Sheskin, M., Chevallier, C., Kanovsky, M. Hulin, M., Ivanescu, A., Lenfesty, H., Regnier, D., Berniunas, R., Castelain, T., Sebesteny A., & Baumard, N. (2018). The needs of the many: Judging sacrifices for the group across cultures. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 18(1-2), 205-223

Sheskin, M. & Baumard, B. (2016) Switching Away from Utilitarianism: The Limited Role of Utility Calculations in Moral Judgment, PloS one, 11(8), e0160084.

Debove, S., André, J.B. & Baumard, N., (2015) Partner choice creates fairness in humans, Proc. R. Soc. B, 282(1808), 20150392

Chevallier, C., Xu, J., Adachi, K., van der Henst, J.B. & Baumard, N., (2015) Preschoolers’ understanding of merit in two Asian societies, Plos One. 10(5), e0114717.

Liénard, P., Chevallier, C., Mascaro, O., Kiura, P., and Baumard, N. (2013) Early Understanding of Merit in Turkana Children, Journal of Cognition and Culture, 13 (1).

Baumard, N., Mascaro, O. et Chevallier, C. (2012) Preschoolers are able to take merit into account when distributing goods, Developmental Psychology, 48(2), 492-498.

Sperber, D. & Baumard, N. (2012) Morality and reputation in an evolutionary perspective, Mind and Language, 27 (5), 495–518.

Debunking group selection

Baumard, N. (2012) The moral problem of group selection, Commentary on Pinker‘s The false allure of group selection, Edge.

Baumard, N. (2012) The restorative logic of punishment: Another argument in favor of weak selection, Comment on Guala’s “Reciprocity: weak or strong? What punishment experiments do (and do not) demonstrate”, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35 (2).

Baumard, N. (2011) Punishment is not a group adaptation, Humans punish to restore fairness rather than to support group cooperation, Mind and Society, 10, 1.

Baumard, N. & Liénard, P. (2011) Second or third party punishment? When self-interest hides behind apparent functional interventions (Letter to Mathew & Boyd’s “Punishment sustains large scale cooperation in prestate warfare”), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108 (39).

Baumard, N. (2010) Has punishment played a role in the evolution of cooperation? A critical review, Mind and Society, 171-192, 9, 2.

Baumard, N., Boyer, P. and Sperber, D. (2010) Evolution of Fairness: Cultural Variability, (Letter to Henrich et al.’s “Markets, Religion, Community Size, and the Evolution of Fairness and Punishment”) Science 23 July 2010 329: 388-389.