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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 111, Issue 3, March 2014

Patrick Forber, Rory Smead
Pages 151-166
DOI: 10.5840/jphil201411139

An Evolutionary Paradox for Prosocial Behavior

We investigate how changes to the payoffs of cooperative behavior affect the evolutionary dynamics. Paradoxically, the larger the benefits of cooperation, the less likely it is to evolve. This holds true even in cases where cooperation is strictly dominant. Increasing the benefits from prosocial behavior has two effects: first, in some circumstances it promotes the evolution of spite; and second, it can decrease the strength of selection leading to nearly neutral evolution of strategies. In light of these results we must reevaluate standard philosophical perspectives on the evolution of cooperation and morality.

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