In December of 2013, I participated in a workshop on "Liberalism and the Evolutionary Agenda" in Freiburg, Germany. I wrote a series of six posts on that workshop.
Now, the Journal of Bioeconomics (volume 17, number 1, 2015) has published some of the papers from that workshop, along with a paper by David Sloan Wilson. Here is my article, which is a shortened version of the long paper that I presented at the workshop.
The biological psychology of human care can be illuminated through Antonio Damasio’s (1994) "somatic marker hypothesis" for explaining the importance of emotion in decision-making and consciousness. Building on an idea proposed by William James and Carl Lange, Damasio believes that emotions arise from physiological states of the body, so that, for example, the emotion of fear arises from the physiological disturbance of the body associated with some fearful event. Emotions help us to make decisions by assigning emotional valence to our choices. Through imaginative projection, we can foresee the emotional outcome of a choice by anticipating how we will feel--our somatic markers--if we make that choice, and thus we might avoid a choice with fearful associations. Ultimately, this emotional decision-making mechanism is an evolutionary adaptation to secure the survival and well-being of the body.
A Darwinian view of human nature sustains the liberal commitment to private property as a natural propensity that is diversely expressed in custom and law. The particular rules for property rights are determined by customary traditions and formal laws that vary across history and across societies, but that variation is constrained by the natural desire for property. We need to understand the complexity of property across three levels--natural property, customary property, and formal property (Arnhart 2009, pp. 59-67).
2 The evolution of exchange and specialization
2.1 The evolution of the “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange”
2.2 The neurobiology of exchange