Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Biopolitical Science of Locke's State of Nature: An APSA Convention Paper

I have written a paper for the 2015 convention of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco, September 3-6.

The paper is "The Biopolitical Science of Locke's State of Nature."  Here's the abstract:

As part of the project for developing a biopolitical science, a biological science of human nature and human history can be used to clarify and perhaps even resolve some of the fundamental debates in the history of political philosophy.  For example, applying biological science to the debate between Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau over the state of nature can show that Hobbes was partly right, Rousseau was mostly wrong, and Locke was mostly right.  In support of this conclusion, this paper shows how biological science sustains Locke’s account of eight features of the state of nature: human self-ownership, divine ownership, familial society, the law of reputation, egalitarian hierarchy, war and peace, consent to government, and resistance to tyranny. This shows how, as part of a biopolitical science, we can develop a biopolitical philosophy.

My panel will meet on Friday, September 4, 11:30 am to 1:00 pm, at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, in the room Union Square 21.


CJColucci said...

While I can figure out, in general, most of the rest of how biological science can support Locke's views, I can't figure out how it can sustain -- or even address -- the notion of divine ownership. Unless you mean that there is a biological basis for belief in divine ownership.

Larry Arnhart said...

Yes, you're right. Although evolutionary science cannot confirm or deny the truth of religious belief, it can explain the practical, moral benefits of religious belief.

Xenophon said...

Egalitarian hierarchy? isn't that an oxymoron? please explain.

Larry Arnhart said...

"Egalitarian hierarchy" is Christopher Boehm's term, but the idea is implicit in Locke's account of the state of nature and in the ethnographic studies of foraging bands. Even the most egalitarian foragers recognize that some individuals will have more status and influence than others, and that they will become informal leaders, but others can punish the bullying or "big-shot behavior" of the leaders and so have a leveling effect that prevents tyrannical dominance. Liberal democracy rests on essentially the same kind of thinking.