What Drives Moral Progress?

What would happen if the ancient Greek philosopher Plato partook in contemporary dialogues about the types of moral questions that he first posed? He might begin by challenging humanity's increasing reliance on evolutionary psychology to understand our moral progress.

DAVOS – What would happen if the ancient Greek philosopher Plato partook in contemporary dialogues about the types of questions that he first posed, and that continue to vex us? In my view, he would have many new questions – including about our increasingly psychological approach to philosophical discussion.

Plato would probably head to a leading global technology hub: Google’s California headquarters. There, he might fall into a discussion with a software engineer about, say, whether ethical questions can be answered through crowdsourcing. He would probably love the idea of the information cloud – so abstract, so Platonic – and find Google to be the ideal tool to catch up on the vast scientific and technical advances of the last couple of millennia.

But Plato would probably be most amazed by the world’s moral progress. After all, he believed that being a “philosopher” meant assuming the responsibilities of moral reformer. Yet, though morality was always at the center of his thinking, many of the moral truths that we now take for granted never occurred to him.

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