Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Natural Right and Biology"--Ken Blanchard's New Blog

"Natural Right and Biology" is the title for Ken Blanchard's new blog.  He will be writing about topics related to what he sees as the intersection of classical political philosophy and Darwinian biology. 

Obviously, this is similar to what I do on this blog, although I can anticipate some interesting points of friendly disagreement as indicated by his post on Lincoln and Aristotle.

Both Ken and I were trained as scholars of the history of political philosophy, and we both decided some years ago that the evolutionary biology of human nature could illuminate our study of political philosophy.  In particular, it seemed to us that modern Darwinian science might support a revival of the ancient idea of "natural right."

In our thinking about classical natural right, Ken and I were influenced by the scholarship of Leo Strauss and his students.  But unlike most Straussians, we did not see modern natural science--and particularly Darwinian science--as the enemy of the classical tradition of natural right. 

A crucial influence guiding us down this path was Roger Masters of Dartmouth College.  Roger studied with Strauss at the University of Chicago where he wrote his dissertation on Jean-Jacques Rousseau's political thought.  Roger became one of the leading Rousseau scholars.  Then in the 1970s, he began to consider how modern biology might help him to think about the history of political philosophy--particularly, in supporting the tradition of natural right.

In 1978, I read a conference paper by Roger on modern biology and classical natural right.  I was hooked.  And from that point, I began to work through the points of contact between biological science and political philosophy.

In the summer of 1996, Ken and I were together at a NEH/NSF summer institute on "Biology and Human Nature" directed by Roger at Dartmouth.  The thinking that we did that summer--stimulated by conversations with the many smart people at the institute--laid the groundwork for much of what we've done since then.

In 2009, Ken edited and contributed to Darwinian Conservatism: A Disputed Question, which presented some of the debate over my argument for Darwinian conservatism.

Ken's new blog will continue our conversation.

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