Sunday, January 24, 2010

Evolution and Ethics at Oxford: From Charles Darwin to C. S. Lewis

The seminar on "Evolution and Ethics" that I directed at the University of Oxford last week left me with many questions to ponder.

Most of the participants were professional philosophers (professors and advanced students) from China and from Calvin College. As I anticipated, much of the discussion turned on the debate between the Platonic or transcendentalist view of ethics and the Humean or empiricist view. A Darwinian evolutionary understanding of ethics is on the side of the Humean view that sees ethics as rooted in human nature, particularly in human emotions, beliefs, and desires. On the other side, the Platonic view taken by those like Kant looks to a transcendent conception of the Good that is somehow woven into the order of the cosmos. (As I have indicated in previous posts, the careful reader of the Platonic dialogues might doubt whether Plato himself--or Plato's Socrates--was a Platonist in this way.)

A growing number of leading philosophers are adopting a Humean/Darwinian moral psychology supported by recent research in evolutionary science, neuroscience, anthropology, and animal behavior. But one can still see the powerful influence of a Kantian transcendentalism in moral philosophy that regards morality as an autonomous realm of pure reason totally separated from the empirical realm of nature as studied by natural science.

After discussing this general debate in our first meeting, we turned in the second meeting to the debate between Charles Darwin and George Jackson Mivart. As far as Mivart is concerned, Darwin's evolutionary account of the moral sense stresses the role of the moral emotions and thus misses the essence of morality as pure rationality. Mivart insists: "It is judgment and not feeling which has to do with right and wrong." Mivart fails to see, however, that Darwin recognizes the role of reason in moral judgment that makes morality uniquely human, because it depends on human intellectual capacities, but he also recognizes the role of emotion and social instinct in motivating moral actions. The emotions and instincts underlying human morality can be seen in other animals, which shows the building blocks of moral experience in animal nature.

Although some of the participants in the seminar were receptive to Darwin's moral naturalism, many were deeply skeptical of whether his naturalism could account for the moral ought, for that sense of imperative normativity that seems to transcend emotion and desire, and which is so prominent in Kant's moral philosophy. These Kantians argued that while natural science could explain the origins of morality through evolutionary history, it could not explain the justifications of moral rules by reason. The Kantians insisted on this dichotomy between origins and justifications in order to preserve the Kantian separation between the natural realm of human moral sentiments and desires and the transcendent realm of human moral reasoning and freedom. The natural realm of human action is governed by hypothetical imperatives about what we have to do to be happy. The transcendent realm of human reason is governed by categorical imperatives of what we absolutely ought to do regardless of the practical consequences.

This set up the opposing sides in our discussion. I and the other naturalists were inclined to argue that morality is completely a matter of hypothetical imperatives, because the only ultimate answer to questions about why we "ought" to do something is that it will promote our human happiness or flourishing, and therefore evolutionary science helps us to understand the evolution of human morality as hypothetical imperatives that are constrained by our nature as social mammals. Against this position, the Kantian transcendentalists argued that morality strictly speaking--the morality of the moral "ought" rather than the calculation of the prudential "ought"--is a matter of pure reason separated from all natural experience.

But what I found most interesting in this discussion is how far the Kantians were willing to go in compromising by acknowledging that Kant's "pure ethics" of a priori reasoning had to be combined with his "impure ethics" of human nature and moral emotions. The pure a priori rationalism of Kantian ethics has been strongly challenged by research in moral psychology that shows that reason by itself cannot be the only ground of moral judgment. Consequently, the Kantians have had to argue that an expansive reading of all of Kant's writings shows that he allows for a naturalistic explanation of moral experience beyond pure reason. Kant is not simply a Kantian!

This reading of Kant has been elaborated by Robert Louden's Kant's Impure Ethics: From Rational Beings to Human Beings (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Still, however, the Kantians could not compromise at all on one point. Darwin speculated that if bees had mental capacities comparable to those of human beings, bees would develop a moral sense. But the content of bee morality would be radically different from human morality. Moral bees might regard it as a "sacred duty" for sisters to kill their brothers, and for the queen mother to kill her fertile daughters. The thought here is that since morality is relative to the natural needs and desires of the species, each species would have a different morality. So there is no cosmic morality. The standards of right and wrong are not woven in the fabric of the cosmos, there to be discovered by any animal that evolves a moral sense. Rather, morality is species-specific in its content. This bothered the Kantians in our group (just as it bothered the original Kantian reviewers of Darwin's book--Mivart and Cobbe), because it denies the transcendentalist claim that morality manifests a truth about the cosmos--perhaps about God as the moral lawgiver of the cosmos.

These same basic positions and lines of reasoning continued in the other meetings. In the third meeting, we discussed a paper by Frans de Waal, with critical responses from Robert Wright, Philip Kitcher, Christine Korsgaard, and Peter Singer. De Waal stressed the continuity between the social behavior of other primates and the moral behavior of human beings as showing the evolutionary roots of morality. The critics insisted, however, that there was a gap between animal behavior and human morality created by the uniquely human capacities for language and abstract reasoning.

Although initially there seems to be a sharp separation between the sides in this debate, closer examination reveals that both sides eventually move close to one another. I saw the same thing happening in our group. On the one side, de Waal and the Darwinian naturalists say that even as they stress the continuity of human morality with the social behavior of others animals, they recognize that morality strictly speaking really is uniquely human because of the uniquely human mental capacities required for morality. On the other side, the Kantians can recognize that nonhuman animals can display some of the natural dispositions and capacities that go into human morality.

Everyone seems to agree here that morality requires an "impartial" or "disinterested" perspective that leads to something like the Golden Rule as a fundamental moral principle. But I agree with de Waal that this moral impartiality is not absolute, because it rests on an "abstract yet still egocentric concern about the quality of life in a community." This is evident in the "tension between loyalty and moral inclusion." Morality is an "in-group phenomenon" in that morality has evolved largely to promote cooperation within groups to compete with those outside the groups. We can extend our moral concern to ever wider groups--fellow kin, fellow citizens, all human beings, perhaps even all sentient creatures. Darwin speaks of moral progress reaching the point of "disinterested love of all living creatures." But I agree with de Waal that as we extend our moral sympathy farther out on the moral circle, our attachments to those far away is commonly weaker than our attachments to those close to us, and we are even morally obligated to feel a stronger concern for those close to us than for strangers.

The question of whether absolute impartiality is possible, or desirable, becomes evident in the debate over "animal rights." Peter Singer claims that the ultimate moral principle is impartial concern for the interests of all sentient creatures, which dictates that we might have to sacrifice human interests for the interests of nonhuman animals. Against Singer, de Waal argues that while we should show some sympathy for other animals, our moral obligations to our fellow human beings come first. So, for example, de Waal thinks using primates for scientific research where we would not want to use human beings is justifiable if the benefit for human beings outweighs the suffering of the animals.

In our reading for this seminar, some of the authors interpret the principle of moral impartiality as dictating universal love, like the teaching of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. As I said in the seminar, I am not persuaded by this, because it seems to me that universal love is contrary to human nature. A morality of universal love would dictate absolute pacifism and socialism in the pursuit of global peaceful cooperation free of any conflict. But we know that doesn't work. In fact, refusing to punish evildoers would make human morality impossible.

This point came up in our fourth meeting as we discussed my Darwinian Natural Right and John Hare's criticism of my book. Hare is a Kantian Christian. He agrees with me that complete moral impartiality as dictating universal love is unnatural for human beings. But then he says this only shows the "moral gap" between what morality demands of us and what we can do. To cross that moral gap--to satisfy the demands of morality--we need the assistance of God. This leads him into his divine command theory of morality. Against the secular Kantianism of people like Korsgaard, Hare defends a religious Kantianism based on the claim that Kant's categorical morality cannot be obeyed by human beings without some religious support.

Darwin intimates the religious character of Kant's moral philosophy when he quotes Kant's depiction of moral law as evoking "reverence." Moreover, in the passage from the Critique of Practical Reason from which Darwin quotes, Kant speaks of "man as belonging to two worlds"--the phenomenal world of natural causes and the noumenal world of human freedom. But then Darwin indicates that he will explain morality "exclusively from the side of natural history." So, implicitly, Darwin rejects Kant's "two worlds" in favor of one world--the empirical world of nature.

This points us again to the fundamental debate between Platonic transcendentalism and Humean naturalism. In the last meeting of our seminar, I began by suggesting that if we're laying out a typology of fundamental sources of moral principles invoked in moral philosophy, we might consider six possible sources:

1. Cosmic God
2. Cosmic Nature
3. Cosmic Reason
4. Human Nature
5. Human Culture
6. Human Individuals

The transcendentalists look to the first three--the cosmic sources of moral order--because they believe that morality cannot have "moral clout" (in Richard Joyce's phrase) unless it is believed to be part of the cosmic order of things as dictated by God, by the nature of the universe, or by universal rational structures. So just as we discover mathematical principles as somehow woven into the constitution of the world, we should be able to discover moral principles as part of the "wisdom of the world" (in Remi Brague's phrase).

The empiricists, however, look to the second three sources--the human sources of moral order. Human nature gives us the generic goods of life as rooted in the natural desires of the human species as shaped by evolutionary history--perhaps the 20 natural desires that I have sketched. But within the contraints of human nature, human culture specifies the moral traditions of human morality as shaped by cultural history. Then, within the constraints of both human nature and human culture, human individuals make choices that reflect the uniqueness of their individual temperaments, abilities, and circumstances as shaped by their individual history.

Kant's "pure ethics" corresponds to the transcendental order of the first three sources. His "impure ethics" corresponds to the human order of the last three sources.

Philosophers like Kant and Hare are satisfied Platonists because they believe that morality really does find its transcendent grounds in the cosmic sources. But philosophers like Richard Joyce and John Mackie are frustrated Platonists who agree that "moral clout" requires belief in "moral facts" as cosmic facts beyond the "natural facts," but they are convinced by natural science that this belief is false, because what appears to be a cosmic moral objectivity is actually a subjective projection of the human moral emotions onto the cosmos, and therefore morality is necessarily fictional.

By contrast, the satisfied Humeans--those like Darwin and Westermarck--see no need for morality conforming to a moral cosmology, and so the illusion of moral objectivity as founded on moral cosmology can be exposed for the illusion that it is, even as we accept the purely naturalistic grounds of morality in human experience--human nature, human culture, and human individuality.

The Humeans and Darwinians accept the historical contingency of morality as shaped by the genetic history of human nature, the social history of human culture, and the personal history of human individuality. The good is the desirable. But what is desirable varies according to the contingencies of human cultures and human individuals. Even so, the generic goods of human nature are stable and universal across all of human history for as long as the human species exists. And yet, there was a time when the human species did not exist, and there will be a time sometime in the future when the human species will be extinct. In the absence of the human species, morality would not exist. If some other species develops the capacities necessary for a moral sense, it will have a moral sense, but the content of that moral sense will be distinct to its specific nature.

On the last day of this seminar, we spent the afternoon touring some sites around Oxford associated with C. S. Lewis. It was fitting that we did this, because Lewis struggled his whole life with the consequences of the modern scientific rejection of the moral cosmology of the ancient and medieval world that Lewis loved.

Lewis was a student at Oxford, and then he taught for 30 years as a Fellow at Magdalen College at Oxford. He was a scholar of medieval and renaissance literature. But he is best known as the author of some of the most popular works of Christian apologetics and literature, including science fiction and children's fantasy.

We toured his house ("The Kilns"), Magdalen College, and the graveyard where he is buried outside his parish church--Holy Trinity Church in Headington.  At the house, our tour was guided by Michael Ward, a chaplain at Oxford and the author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Ward argues in his book that Lewis's love of medieval cosmology provides the key to the symbolic coherence of Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, which became one of the most popular series of children's fantasy novels of the twentieth century. Ward shows how each of the seven novels in the series corresponds to the seven planets of medieval cosmology.

I have written an earlier post on Lewis' book The Discarded Image as his study of the geocentric cosmic model that combined Platonic and Christian teachings about the moral order of the universe as designed by God. This model shaped the human sense of cosmic moral order in the Western world for almost 2,000 years before it was discarded by modern science.

Lewis' transcendent longings were satisfied by that cosmic vision of the world as a creation of God's love that offered ultimate satisfaction to the human yearning for meaning and purpose in the universe. Lewis doubted that modern natural science could ever provide a proper substitute for that old cosmology. And yet Lewis was a theistic evolutionist who accepted the scientific truth of evolutionary science, even if he doubted that such a science could ever give us the moral truth that we seek. I suggest, however, that what Lewis in The Abolition of Man lays out as the "common morality" (or Tao) of humanity--universally found in all human societies throughout history--points to the sort of natural morality that is supported by evolutionary reasoning.

A few of my previous posts on pertinent themes can be found hereherehere, here, here, and here.


Unknown said...

"Lewis doubted that modern natural science could ever provide a proper substitute for that old cosmology."

-Prof. Arnhart

Given that Westerners have to some extent inherited the moral sensibilities of Christians, whether or not they themselves are Christian, would it be ridiculous for a Westerner to claim that Darwinian Conservatism isn't a morality because it does not provide a creed that satisfies the human desire for meaning and purpose? A person with a certain calibration of moral sentiments or intuitions might think that Lewis' "common morality" does provide the moral truth that we seek, yet it seems evident that it did not provide the moral truth that Lewis himself sought. I think that Lewis had a better picture of what satisfied him as a moral truth than we do. I also think that people with different moral calibrations will feel the same way as Lewis, not because they are mistaken Platonists, but rather because the natural variations in the amplitudes of certain moral emotions and intuitions means that morality must mean something different to such people. To use the example of Nietzsche, for him, the death of Christianity was the death of morality, because morality, as he experienced it in his own sentiments, really was about finding meaning and purpose in life through adherence to a true creed. However, not everyone feels those same sentiments, even when at church. So it wasn't the death of morality for all people; just those with certain moral calibrations.

I guess all I am really saying is that the Platonists will always be with us. For me the question is about who has a more justifiable definition of morality. Maybe morality is all about co-operation and pro-social behavior. Maybe it is about belief in some creed, or belief in the truth of the customs of the tribe. Do Humeans tend to be more cosmopolitan in temperament and the Kantians more tribal?

Thursday said...

the only ultimate answer to questions about why we "ought" to do something is that it will promote our human happiness or flourishing

This is where you screw things up.

Here is Will Wilkinson commenting on Steven Pinker's attempt to ground morality in Darwinian evolution:

Now, I agree about a trillion percent with what I imagine Pinker is going for here: improving real human well-being by establishing the cultural dominance of a distinctively liberal calibration of the moral sense. That is, in fact, the ticket. But I simply don’t see how this stands as an adequate reply to someone who says that it is better that millions suffer and/or die for the greater glory of the tribe, or the Prophet, or to prevent the defilement of the blood of the Motherland. Yes, it is an objective fact of the world that if the well-being of each is our aim, then liberal morality, and its concomitant institutions, such as the extended order of market cooperation, are the necessary means. But, tragically, we do not all share this aim.

Must we? From the perspective of morality per se and not just from the perspective of one among many moralities? Is human flourishing of overriding importance–does it get greater weight than alternatives—because of it’s very nature. Or are those of us with an already liberal moral sense simply willing to go to the mat for the idea? To my mind, Haidt’s views do leave us with relativism.

Why exactly, if you don't care about human flourishing, should you care about human flourishing?

Thursday said...

Here is Ross Douthat on the same Pinker essay:

Moreover, as a guide to individual moral action - as opposed to a description of the impulses most consonant with the goals of a liberal society - Pinker's argument is incredibly weak stuff. Certainly, in a stable, lawbound society, it’s generally rational to deal fairly with your friends and neighbors and co-workers, because you want them to deal fairly with you. But that "generally" excludes all the hard cases, in which doing the right thing isn’t in a person’s rational self-interest, and those hard cases are the essence of what separates morally-impressive behavior from the reverse. Pinker's "rational actor" calculus makes sense in a landscape of equality, where if your neighbor is going hungry today you could easily be going hungry tomorrow, and in a landscape of transparency, in which your neighbor (or your spouse or friend or business partner) will have perfect knowledge of the wrongs you've done them. But most serious moral dilemmas arrive from power differentials on the one hand - situations in which a stronger person has the opportunity to do something for a weaker person, but at a real cost to themselves and with little chance that they'll suffer if they don't - and secret temptations on the other, where you have a chance to commit a wrong that will be known only to yourself (and God). And Pinker's argument that morality should be based on rational self-interest, and that as a general rule, it's in your rational self-interest to treat people as you'd wish to be treated, tells us nothing about why it's wrong in a particular instance for someone to refrain from cheating on his taxes - or on his wife - if he knows he won't get caught. Or why it's wrong in a particular instance for a Hutu family to deny refuge to their Tutsi neighbors if they know that offering the Tutsis sanctuary will put their own lives at risk.

You can fill in your own example, obviously. The point is that Pinker's argument for why our moral instincts aren't just as arbitrary as, say, the color of the sky or the taste of an apple bails out precisely at the moment when any argument for morality needs to kick in - when doing the "wrong" thing will have no obvious cost, or when doing the "right" thing has the chance to do real, palpable damage to the interests (or life) of the person doing it.

Larry Arnhart said...


If you tell me that I ought to do X, I will ask, Why? What's your answer?

You might say, Because God commands it.

But then I might be unsure of whether your report of God's will is reliable, and I might also ask why I should obey God's will, or why I should assume God's command is a good one.

Or you might say, as Kant does, "reason of itself, independent of all experience, commands what ought to be done," and that "all moral precepts have their seat and origin entirely a priori in reason."

But then I might say that while I can understand how a mathematical axiom can be true a priori, I cannot understand how there can be an axiomatic truth in morality that motivates me to act in accordance with it.

So, again, how are you going to persuade me to act according to your moral ought?

Ultimately, I believe, the only way we persuade anyone to act morally is to persuade them that this will on the whole and over the long run promote their happiness. The good must be the desirable.

Of course, figuring out what is desirable for us over a whole life is difficult, and learning how to habituate ourselves to strive for what is truly desirable is difficult.

How exactly are you going to persuade me that I ought to do X if X is undesirable?

As I have indicated in some previous posts, most of the leading German philosophers in Nazi Germany joined the Nazi Party, and many of them were Neo-Kantians who appealed to eternal, transcendental principles of the moral ought. Some of the greatest atrocities in human history have been committed by people who believed they were obeying absolute moral imperatives beyond self-interest. The "Nazi conscience," as Claudia Koonz has shown, was based on a Kantian-style ethics of moral duty as dictating self-sacrifice for the greater good.

We didn't persuade the Nazis that they had made a logical mistake in a priori moral reasoning. In this case, moral persuasion failed. We defeated them not by reason but by force.

Unfortunately, some moral conflicts become tragic dilemmas in which persuasion fails, and we appeal to force. Do you have some alternative?

Some of the most difficult moral conflicts come from group-against-group competition. Here we can try to extend our sympathy, our moral concern, to embrace those outside our group. But, generally, we will not feel as strongly for strangers as we do for those close to us. And so in cases of severe conflicts of interests, we will go to war.

I do not think "universal love" can ever eliminate such tragic conflicts. Do you?

Thursday said...

Unfortunately, you've simply responded with a bunch of evasions of the problems with your own position. It may be true that other ways of grounding morality are just as problematic. That doesn't mean your own position makes any sense whatsoever.

Some people don't desire human flourishing and others can turn their desire for human flourishing off? You haven't answered the fundamental question of why I should care about those things if I don't or why I should care about human flourishing the more than I care about other things.

Larry Arnhart said...

Are you saying that there is no grounding for morality at all?

Are you saying that many people don't desire their own flourishing or happiness? I find that incredible. Can you explain what you have in mind?

Maybe you're saying that while people desire their own flourishing or happiness, they don't always desire the flourishing or happiness of other people--particularly, people perceived as outside the moral circle of concern. If that's what you are saying, then, as I suggested in my comment, I agree that this is a problem, because some of our deepest moral conflicts arise from group-against-group competition. But insofar as we are social animals, our flourishing or happiness is always social, and we can extend our social attachments to ever wider groups, although we will never reach a point of absolutely impartial concern for all human beings equally.

Unknown said...

One of the things that I have been left wondering by this blog is just how exactly Darwinian Conservatism helps us figure out what is desirable for us over a lifetime, and just what it implies for habituating ourselves to striving for the good. Say what you will about transcendentalist opponents, but at least the religious among them actually could answer, concretely and not theoretically, what is truly desirable, i.e. a life lived in communion with God, and what concrete actions to take, i.e. go to mass, confess and repent your sins, take communion, etc.

Even if people do make decisions based on their emotions, they do take into account how their actions will be viewed by others. Part of what morality does is to provide a language of shaming and justification so that it shapes the social landscape and moral culture in which humans live. What language of shame and justification does Darwinian Conservatism imply that we should have? What empirical evidence do you have that we shouldn't all be unsatisfied Platonists? That is to say, why do you disagree with Nietzsche that these are deadly truths, i.e. that knowledge and belief in these truths so corrupts moral culture that shaming and justificatory language no longer serve as effective tools to promote pro-social behavior and discourage anti-social behavior on the margin? Didn't a similar sort of knowledge lead to the culture of the Sophists, the culture that produced the atrocities of the Peloponnesian wars?

Larry Arnhart said...


I agree that religious understanding is one natural desire. I don't agree that it is the summum bonum to which all other goods must be subordinated. Trying to promote a monastic life of "communion with God" as the highest good creates serious problems. In its most extreme form, monasticism becomes a Gnostic denial of natural human goods, a problem that the Catholic Church has faced for centuries.

I don't see why "the language of shame and justification" requires religious transcendentalism. Confucian ethics, for example, allows for shame and justification without any theistic transcendentalism.

Unknown said...

Religion is just an easy example of a moral view that provides concrete actions for those living in its sphere of influence to pursue. Also, I think that non transcendental Confucian ethics were historically a failure, that the Chinese in large part abandoned after Buddhism made inroads into the empire. In fact, Confucians felt so threatened(and were, because they had to find someway to entrench the basic Confucian texts as the basis of the imperial examinations) that Confucian scholars such as the Cheng brothers and Zhu Xi invented transcendental groundings for Confucian ethics. I am not presently arguing that religious understanding takes precedence, I am merely arguing that we have no examples from history that show that a moral culture is sustainable over time without some transcendental or supernatural grounding. Which is why we should be worrying that about the unsatisfied Platonists.

Larry Arnhart said...


I need to learn more about Asian ethical traditions--especially, Confucianism and Buddhism. What impresses me about much of Asian ethics is how little it depends on transcendentalist thinking--particularly, of the theistic variety that is familiar to us in the West.

At the Oxford seminar, I questioned the Chinese participants about this. As far as I can tell, most of them are atheists, and they don't think theistic religions have much appeal in China.

Confucianism has some vague notions of "Heaven," but this is nothing like the Abrahamic religious conception of an afterlife. Buddhism has ideas about karmic rebirth, but there are no theisitic doctrines in Buddhism.

As far as I can tell, both Confucianism and Buddhism are atheistic.

So it's not clear to me that either Confucian or Buddhist ethics depends upon a supernatural grounding.

Unknown said...

I think that, if one does nothing but read Buddhist and Confucian texts, one might get the impression that the people in Buddhist and Confucian societies aren't theists. However, I remember reading at Gene Expression ( that according to the Religious Landscape Survey a majority of Asian Buddhists believe in God. A notable anecdote being that the inlanders of Indonesia, who are mainly Buddhist, when asked about the Tsunami, suggested that the Muslim fisherman were so hard hit because they didn't believe in Lord Buddha, so he didn't protect them. I think that throughout Asian history such belief in norm enforcing supernatural beings was the status quo for the masses; even in the Han dynasty religious Taoism, with a whole pantheon of Gods, was very popular among the masses, and was often a source of popular revolts. The elites might have been atheists and moral anti-realists, just like the elite among the Buddhist priesthood may also be atheists, but I think that it is a different story for the masses.

Larry Arnhart said...


Ok. You've made a good point. Even if the classic texts of Confucianism and Buddhism suggest atheism (or at least non-theism), and even if a few intellectual types might see this, there probably is a natural human inclination in most ordinary human beings to believe in divinities or spirits of some kind.

Justin Barrett's work--and similar work on the naturalness of religious belief--would suggest ways of explaining this as a product of evolutionary history.

Unknown said...

I worry about the elite; what happens when those in power perceive themselves to be different from those who are subordinate to them? As you have often noted, one of the things most problematic about our moral heritage is our tendency not to view out-group members as worthy of full moral consideration. This is why I worry that knowledge about our biology is a deadly truth, because it makes it very easy for those in power to see themselves as an in-group, and those not in power as members of a stupid/lazy out-group due to heritable differences in intelligence and personality. A moral culture that convinces its members of some sort of basic equality of human beings helps to alleviate this problem. Maybe those in power aren't sociopaths, but I really do think that it is important to make sure that the elites do not view themselves as part of some special in-group that is morally superior to the masses. So it worries me to see such a transcendental morality that had at its heart the moral equality of human beings fade away, because such a moral culture helped to balance the dangerous excesses of Western Culture.