Aristotle, Darwin & HBD

After reading over Noah Millman’s hyperbolic piece on neoreaction, I noticed another post by him nominally about atheism but substantively about an evolutionary basis of morality. He writes:

Evolutionary psychology comes in to explain why some kind of morality is natural, since we can’t rely naively on an Aristotelean teleology which we now know has no empirical basis (but which, I cannot stress enough, Aristotle thought was scientific – I feel pretty confident that, were he alive today, Aristotle would be making precisely the same move). But much of the edifice of Aristotle’s ethics can be readily re-built on a Darwinian foundation. Now we have a theory of virtue and human flourishing, and an ethics to promote same within society. Between Aristotle and the neo-Darwinians, we’ve also probably got a Burkean bias towards existing institutions and arrangements and a preference for spontaneous order over imposed rules.

Minus Millman’s predilection for J.S. Mill, I have long thought along similar lines, and have in fact argued similar points (here, here, and here).  I’ve long thought that Aristotle (foremost a biologist) in his political and ethical writings was working along the same intuitions as a sociobiology ethicist would today, albeit with Aristotle’s more limited understanding of human science.

But there is a larger problem here. Call it the “Western blind spot”.  As automobiles have blind spots, so do biological Westerners, and this blind spot is “universalism,” the tendency to prescribe Western norms universally.  And this is the primary problem with evolutionary psychology today — the tendency to think evolution stopped from the neck down some 50,000 years ago and that all races are behaviorally and cognitively the same.  Anyone who has taken the time to look into human biodiversity, knows this simply isn’t and cannot be true.  Thus, it’s better to think of human natures (plural) and not human nature.  Call this the HBD caveat, which brings us back to Aristotle, who, in his Politics, essentially gives an HBD account of politics:  different ethnic groups are better suited for different forms of government.

Further reading:

Peter Frost: “Can evolutionary psychology evolve?,” “Whither evolutionary psychology?,” and “Human nature or human natures?

Johan Bolhuis et al:  “Darwin in Mind: New Opportunities for Evolutionary Psychology

AWC: “Is Natural Law Anti-Nature?” and “The Ancient Greeks & Romans, Beauty and Human Biodiversity


2 thoughts on “Aristotle, Darwin & HBD

  1. Almost all specimens of our species have bicameral vision, which is a core physical trait. And yet, the quality of vision varying somewhat from person to person.

    Such is likely true of natural psychological predilections as well. We all likely have some common (or dominant) psychological trails (e.g. concern for the well-being of our young), but the degree or intensity of this emotion may vary somewhat among individuals.

    Rather than multiple human natures, perhaps there is a commonality of nature with some degree of variance in intensity.

  2. Pingback: Monarchy vs Neocameralism vs Republicanism, etc. | Occam's Razor

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