The Uses of Social Biology in the History of Political Thought and Political Science

Dr Brian Hugh Baxter
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Black argues that social biology, properly used, is an indispensable tool, alongside archaeology and anthropology, for understanding and explaining early human political practices and ideas, both in tribal societies and in early states. It can promote understanding and explanation of certain phenomena in later political thought and practice. It does so by pointing up continuities between behaviour patterns in other animals and humans. By seeing the human mind as the outcome of evolution through natural selection, one can detect predispositions to certain ways of thinking (e.g. modelling the state on the family). One must, none the less, always bear in mind the specifically human phenomena of culture.

Baxter tackles the epistemological and moral objections that have been raised against the use of approaches drawn from sociobiology and evolutionary psychology in the humanities in general, and political science in particular. He argues that the charges of reductionism and determinism are ill-founded, explores the idea of consilience advocated by Edward O.Wilson, and examines how the treatment by evolutionary psychologists of the bases of social stratification can help with the resolution of some long-standing debates in political sociology.

Keywords: Social biology, Sociobiology, Evolutionary psychology, Political thought, Political science, Consilience, Reductionism, Biological determinism, Social stratification, Origins of the state
Stream: Knowledge, Philosophy, Ethics, Consciousness, History, Historiography, Political Science, Politics, Science, Environment and the Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Darwinism and the Social Sciences

Dr Brian Hugh Baxter

Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics, University of Dundee

Ref: H05P0508