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On the Genealogy of Norms: A Case for the Role of Emotion in Cultural Evolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Shaun Nichols*
Affiliation:
Department of Philosophy, College of Charleston
*
Send requests for reprints to the author, Department of Philosophy, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424–0001; nichols@cofc.edu.

Abstract

One promising way to investigate the genealogy of norms is by considering not the origin of norms, but rather what makes certain norms more likely to prevail. Emotional responses, I maintain, constitute one important set of mechanisms that affects the cultural viability of norms. To corroborate this, I exploit historical evidence indicating that sixteenth-century etiquette norms prohibiting disgusting actions were much more likely to survive than other sixteenth-century etiquette norms. This case suggests more broadly that research on cultural evolution should pay greater attention to the role of emotion systems in cultural transmission.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I would like to thank Todd Grantham, Luc Faucher, Todd Jones, Ron Mallon, and three anonymous referees for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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