Authors: Ramzi Suleiman
Previous theoretical and empirical studies of the effects of religion on adherent prosociality have focused, almost entirely, on the intragroup and intergroup aspects of religion, as facilitators of prosocial attitudes and behavior. The moral values preached by various religions were treated inseparably from other religious practices, which contribute to the evolution of cohesive, more adapted and larger groups. The present research takes another direction by addressing the question of the intrinsic effects of religious moral principles on the economic behavior of its adherents. For this purpose I consider simple symmetric and asymmetric economic interactions between two rational individuals who nonetheless obey the moral maxim “treat others as you treat yourself,” considered to be of highest importance by most religions. I solve for the divisions of a shared resource that guarantee equal levels of satisfaction by the interacting parties. As expected, for the symmetric case, adherence to the aforementioned maxim prescribes an equal division of the resource. Strikingly, for the asymmetric case, the prescribed division is one in which the decision maker keeps Φ (and transfers to the recipient 1- Φ), where Φ is the famous golden ratio (≈ 0.618), known for its unique aesthetic properties. I further show that the same solution could be obtained if we replace the above maxim’s constraint with an efficient sanctioning mechanism. I conclude by discussing the numerical identity between the derived fair division and the aesthetically pleasing perceptions of humans. I suggest an experimental test for the hypothesis: fair (just) = fair (beautiful). I then consider the possibility of an evolutionary link between our sense of fairness and our aesthetic tastes, and between the two and the animate and inanimate world in which we live.
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