Evolutionary View of Human Nature and the Goals of Law
Title: Evolutionary View of Human Nature and the Goals of Law
Author: ZALUSKI, Wojciech
Publisher: European University Institute
Series/Number: EUI MWP; 2008/07
In this paper an attempt is made to show that evolutionary theory may be used to define the goals of law. While addressing the problem of defining the goals of law, one can use evolutionary theory in two radically different ways. First, one can reason from the empirical observation that evolution operated according to the principle of the survival of the fittest to the normative conclusion that survival of the fittest is good and therefore ought to be the main goal of law. This approach – characteristic for Social Darwinists – cannot be sustained because it commits the so-called “naturalistic fallacy” and it leads to conclusions that are entirely at odds with our basic moral intuitions. Second, one may proceed in a less simplistic way, by, first, trying to identify the view of human nature implied by evolutionary theory, and, subsequently, reflecting on which political-philosophical conception this evolutionary view of human nature can be said to underlie. Given that each political-philosophical conception determines directly or indirectly the goals of law, it can be said that evolutionary theory, by influencing the choice of a political-philosophical conception, indirectly determines the goals of law. This second approach seems to me much more promising. In developing this approach, I divide my analysis into three steps. First, I define the notion of a view of human nature. I argue that a view of human nature is to provide answers to two main questions: what is the main moral motive of our actions; what is the dominant mode of our actions. I defend the claim that evolutionary psychology leads to a view of human nature according to which human beings are narrowly altruistic and imperfectly rational. I call this evolutionary view of human nature “moderately optimistic”. Third, I argue that this view is incompatible with such political-philosophical conceptions as anarchism, marxism, and right-wing libertarianism, and is compatible with liberalism and socialism. This argumentation, if correct, implies that although evolutionary theory cannot provide a unique answer to the question of what the goals of law should be, it can at least eliminate some potential goals of law as unacceptable..
Subject: Evolutionary theory; human nature; goals of law; political-philosophical conceptions
Type of Access: openAccess