Moral wisdom of the ancients

The Wise Peasant, Egypt, circa 1500 BC

“Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do”.

This plus punishment of non-reciprocators = game theory strategy Direct Reciprocity

Confucius circa 500 BC

Zi Gong asked, saying, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not RECIPROCITY such a word?” 

Reciprocity = game theory strategy Direct Reciprocity with punishment of non-reciprocators built in

Rabbi Hillel circa 10 AD

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

Plus punishment of non-reciprocators = game theory strategy Indirect Reciprocity (act morally not just toward people who can reciprocate, but toward evryone)

Jesus, Matthew 7:12

 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Plus punishment of non-reciprocators = game theory strategy Indirect Reciprocity

Dalai Lama

All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

These quotes of the Dalai Lama are modern, but I take them to represent ancient wisdom. This wisdom, plus our biological emotion indignation (which often requires altruistic, or compassionate, restraint), together are fully consistent with Altruistic Cooperation.

The Dalai Lama’s prescription for the happiness of others and of yourself is fully consistent with a biological understanding of the origins of the experience of durable well-being (happiness) as an adaptation largely selected for by the benefits of altruistic cooperation in groups that it enabled. As the Dalai Lama suggests, perhaps the best way to ensure enjoying this emotion is by doing what it evolved to motivate – acting altruistically.

Click here to read about relevant work since Darwin.

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