This Response addresses the November 2007 Vanderbilt Law Review Article, The Origins of Shared Intuitions of Justice, by Professors Paul H. Robinson, Robert Kurzban, and Owen D. Jones. The Article reviews empirical evidence that people share surprisingly similar moral inclinations—especially with respect to core social principles like opposition to unprovoked physical harm, the taking of property, and cheating in exchanges—and argues that a specific evolved human mechanism provides a more plausible explanation of these similarities than an accumulated social learning theory.
This Response defines the “accumulated social learning” theory and defends it, addressing its purported shortcomings and highlighting areas in which accumulated social learning theory explains present evidence better than an evolutionary theory. Specifically, this Response explains that accumulated social learning theory predicts that people will widely share core moral inclinations, just like evolutionary theory. Furthermore, on the more peripheral issues in which the data demonstrate that moral inclinations differ, social learning theory better accounts for the differences. This Response concludes that accumulated social learning theory provides the simpler, cleaner explanation of the current data.
Responding to The Origins of Shared Intuitions of Justice by Paul H. Robinson, Robert Kurzban, and Owen D. Jones