The evolution of feeling

Michael Slote

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


There has been a great deal of interest lately in "evolutionary psychology" as it relates to human moral psychology and other aspects of human thought and culture. The present chapter considers how morality seen as depending on altruism and on empathy as essential to such altruism might conceivably have evolved. This will require some evolutionary speculation, but also a great deal of conceptual analysis. We have to consider how empathy helps to make altruism possible, but also how evolution could have moved toward empathic creatures via a series of steps each of which had survival value. It will be argued, among other things, that an instinct for proximity helps produce creatures who are open to mutual empathic influence, and also that instincts of imitation (loosely understood) serve to bridge the gap between proximity (flocking, herding) and full-blown empathy. The role of mirror neurons in all this will be considered, as will the usefulness of mammalian mothering as a basis for a kind of generalized human sympathy that has evolutionary survival value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychology of Altruism
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781628081527
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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