Cognitive Science Speaker Series talk explores theory of ‘morality as cooperation’

The Cognitive Science Speaker Series continues on March 10 with a talk by Oliver Scott Curry from the University of Oxford, who will explore the topic of “Morality as Cooperation: Past, Present, and Future.”

York University’s Department of Philosophy, in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, presents the Cognitive Science Speaker Series. All talks take place on Wednesdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. via Zoom. Prior to each talk, the Zoom link will be emailed to all students and faculty from Cognitive Science and Philosophy. Those not affiliated with these groups can join by emailing to receive the Zoom links.

Oliver Scott Curry.
Oliver Scott Curry. Photo: University of Oxford.

Curry’s academic research investigates the nature, content and structure of human morality. He is a research affiliate at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at University of Oxford, and also a research associate at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics. In addition, he is research director for Kindlab at, a non-profit dedicated to educating and inspiring people to choose kindness.

In this talk, Curry will discuss the theory of ‘morality as cooperation.’ What is morality, where does it come from, and how does it work? According to the theory of ‘morality as cooperation,’ morality is a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in social life. As evolutionary game theory has shown, there are many types of cooperation, hence the theory explains many types of morality, including: family values, group loyalty, reciprocity, hawkish heroism, dovish deference, fairness and property rights. Previous research has shown that, as predicted, these seven types of morality are psychologically distinct, and cross-culturally universal. Current research is investigating their genetic, neuroanatomical, and cultural-phylogenetic bases. Future research will explore the implications of morality as a ‘combinatorial system,’ and show how cooperation explains sexual morality. Continuing to test the many implications of the theory will help to put the study of morality on a firm scientific foundation.