chapter  8
24 Pages

Natural Law and Natural Selection: Deontic Reasoning as Part of Evolved Human Nature

The application of evolutionary psychology, with its emphasis on a universal human nature, to natural law legal analyses, which seek to ground human laws in human nature, would appear to be an obvious practical extension of the former. Indeed, evolutionary psychological research on deontic reasoning speaks directly to questions of intuitive conceptions of rights and duties that may conceivably guide legal reasoning. Evolutionary psychology can, therefore, buttress theories of natural law at one of their weakest points by providing scientifically credible foundations for the basic concepts of the approach: rights, duties, human nature, and so on that have often appeared metaphysically suspect. The fit between evolutionary psychology and natural law is far from perfect however. Besides simply lending scientific credence to natural law theories’ conceptual framework, evolutionary investigations of deontic reasoning also raise questions about the adequacy of that framework. This chapter reviews the psychological literature in detail, exploring the convergences and divergences with jurisprudence in an effort to reach a balanced assessment of the support evolutionary theorizing has to offer natural law theories.