Glossary of Evolutionary Philosophy

This page is a glossary of many terms that are good to know if you want to understand my work. It is incomplete and will be filled in whenever a new term is used..

For any terms of evolutionary theory not found here, check out these:


(untranslatable Greek word “principle”, “origin”) “principle”, “origin”, “basis”, “leader”, “oldest”, “first”. Defined at length in
Metaphysics V.1
by Aristotle, where he defines with the meaning give below; for the sake of the unGreeked reader, I have underlined all words that translate arkhe.

“‘BEGINNING‘ [Gk. arkhe] means

  1. that part of a thing from which one would start first, e.g a line or a road has a beginning in either of the contrary directions.
  2. That from which each thing would best be originated, e.g. even in learning we must sometimes begin not from the first point and the beginning of the subject, but from the point from which we should learn most easily.
  3. That from which, as an immanent part, a thing first comes to be, e,g, as the keel of a ship and the foundation of a house, while in animals some suppose the heart, others the brain, others some other part, to be of this nature.
  4. That from which, not as an immanent part, a thing first comes to be, and from which the movement or the change naturally first begins, as a child comes from its father and its mother, and a fight from abusive language.
  5. That at whose will that which is moved is moved and that which changes changes, e.g. the magistracies in cities, and oligarchies and monarchies and tyrannies, are called arhchai [the plural of ‘arkhe‘], and so are the arts, and of these especially the architectonic arts.
  6. That from which a thing can first be known,-this also is called the beginning of the thing, e.g.the hypotheses are the beginnings of demonstrations. (Causes are spoken of in an equal number of senses; for all causes are beginnings.)

It is common, then, to all beginnings to be the first point from which a thing either is or comes to be or is known; but of these some are immanent in the thing and others are outside. Hence the nature of a thing is a beginning, and so is the element of a thing, and thought and will, and essence, and the final cause-for the good and the beautiful are the beginning both of the knowledge and of the movement of many things. ”

Baldwin Effect

Conspiracy of doves

Some evolutionary strategies are inherently unstable because they depend on easily-broken rules where rule breaking completely disrupts its adaptive value. For example, forgoing the expense of military spending for defence is adaptive in the short run, but even one “hawk” can disrupt this conspiracy of dove in a way that can drive the doves extinct. But doves are not necessarily prone to extinction; in many cases they can exist in the same population as hawks, with a gradually fluctuating equilibrium of hawk/dove ratio.

Critical Rationalism

ESS (see “Evolutionary Stable Strategy ” )


(Greek)- an untranslatable Greek term most famously used by Aristotle as the principle which underlies all ethical praise and blame. Aristotle is a strong internalist, in that he sems to assume that everyone wants eudaimonia deep down inside. Or at least (in modern terms), the pursuit of eudaimonia is common to all human ESSs.

Ethical Selection Theory

Evolutionary Stable Strategy

Simply put, an adaptive strategy which works over the long term as the predominant trait of a signoficant population. For example, lying is not an ESS, because liars are parasitic on the honesty of others. So while the presence of liars is ‘stable’ in one sense, it is not an ESS.

Historical Materialism

A philosophical term coined by Marx and Engels. In the context of ethical theory, it refers to the idea that ethical values emerge out of the historical process. It is opposed to what Marx calls “idealism”, the idea that there is a source of ethical value that is true regardless of the evolution of life and culture.


In my blog, this term is used the way that Marx used it. Idealism is the doctrine that there is a source of ethical value that is true regardless of the material conditions and evolution of life and culture. It therefore depends on the is/ought or fact/value distinction. Indeed, the way it is used on this blog depends completely on this distinction.

An idealist would claim that no matter what the facts, the values of moral law is completely a priori and invariant between possible worlds. While in the dominant view idealism is opposed to consequentialism, in my view the latter is just one more type of idealism, and Marx and Engels would agree with me on this.

I call Utilitarianism (to choose an common type of consequentialism) idealist because it does not present itself as the current Evolutionary Stable Strategy, but as simply the very definition of “what should be done”. The fact that people are not necessarily obligated to maximize utility in all circumstances is ignored by this theory as being the result of people’s ignorance of the True Moral Law.



“Qualia” is a coinage of recent analytic philosophy of mind. It refers to the purely subjective consciousness. “What it is like to be x.” It is generally agreed that rocks have nothing that it is like to be a rock, but there is something that it is like to be in pain, or to be angry, to be a fish or a human. This “what it is like” is called “qualia”. We only have direct access to our own qualia, and have to infer or have indirectr access to the qualia of others.

Selection Theory 


philosophical term coined by Curt Doolitle and defined by him like