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John Hibbing's essay is a persuasive defense of biopolitical research. I argue, however, that Hibbing does not go far enough in recognizing the broad vision of biopolitical science as a science of political animals. We need to see this as a science that moves through three levels of deep history: the natural history of the political species, the cultural history of a political community, and the biographical history of political actors in a community. I illustrate this by discussing Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation at these three levels of biopolitical science.
We are not born virtuous or vicious. But we are born with innate temperaments and capacities that influence our acquisition of virtue by learning and judgment. As Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics, “virtues arise in us neither by nature nor contrary to nature; but by our nature we can receive them and perfect them by habituation.”
This article develops a theoretical framework for biopolitical science as a science of political animals. This science moves through three levels of deep political history: the universal political history of the species, the cultural political history of the group, and the individual political history of animals in the group. To illustrate the particular application of biopolitical science, this essay shows how this science would help us to understand Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.
Unlike physics and chemistry, the behavioral sciences are historical sciences that explain the fuzzy complexity of social life through historical narratives. Unifying the behavioral sciences through evolutionary game theory would require a nested hierarchy of three kinds of historical narratives: natural history, cultural history, and biographical history.
War and Human Nature. By Stephen Peter Rosen. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2005. 211p. $29.95.
Darwin and International Relations: On the Evolutionary Origins of
War and Ethnic Conflict. By Bradley A. Thayer. Lexington: The
University Press of Kentucky, 2004. 425p. $40.00.
Any general theory of politics assumes a theory of human nature. A
small but growing number of political scientists have been applying a
Darwinian theory of human biological nature to various topics in political
science. The final aim of such work would be to turn political science
into a biopolitical science. These two books contribute to that end by
showing how research in human biology and Darwinian theory can illuminate
the study of international relations.
Sara Monoson challenges the common view of Plato as a
strong opponent of democracy. Although she acknowledges
his severe criticisms of democracy, she argues that his re-
sponse to Athenian democracy shows ambivalence rather
than complete hostility. Not only does Plato offer some
qualified endorsements of democratic politics, she contends,
but also he presents the practice of the philosophic life as
rooted in Athenian democratic culture. Karl Popper's cri-
tique of Plato as a proto-totalitarian enemy of the "open
society" is not as influential as it once was, but the assump-
tion that Plato and Platonic philosophy are incompatible with
democracy persists. Monoson wants to overturn that view and
thus convince modern democratic readers that they may have
something to learn from Plato.
The publication in 1975 of Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology provoked a great controversy, for in that work Wilson claimed that ethics was rooted in human biology. On the first page of the book, he asserted that our deepest intuitions of right and wrong are guided by the emotional control centers of the brain, which evolved via natural selection to help the human animal exploit opportunities and avoid threats in the natural environment. In 1998, the publication of Wilson's Consilience renewed the controversy, as he continued to argue for explaining ethics through the biology of the moral sentiments.
There has been a resurgence of Darwinian naturalism in political theory, as manifested in the recent work of political scientists such as Roger Masters, Robert McShea, and James Q. Wilson. They belong to an intellectual tradition that includes not only Charles Darwin but also Aristotle and David Hume. Although most political scientists believe Darwinian social theory has been refuted, their objections rest on three false dichotomies: facts versus values, nature versus freedom, and nature versus nurture. Rejecting these dichotomies would allow the social sciences to be linked to the natural sciences through Darwinian biology.