Blog Profile / Darwinian Conservatism

Filed Under:Academics / Philosophy
Posts on Regator:337
Posts / Week:1.7
Archived Since:July 6, 2011

Blog Post Archive

Locke's "Very Strange Doctrine" of the Natural Right to Punish

If Morris Hoffman is right that "evolution built us to punish," this could be the evolutionary basis for John Locke's argument that in the state of nature everyone has a natural right to punish offenses against the law of nature. When...Show More Summary

The Evolution of Darwinian Liberalism

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. Show More Summary

Capitalism vs. The Climate?

Has capitalism caused the climate change that threatens to destroy civilization? Does slowing or reversing that climate change require that we move away from unregulated capitalism towards a socialist society that restricts economicShow More Summary

Watson's Mistakes

James Barrat has identified IBM's Watson as "the first machine to make us wonder if it understands" (224). But many critics, including many computer scientists, would say that this is an illusion. There is no reason to wonder whether...Show More Summary

Is IBM's Watson a Machine That Thinks?

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords.” That is what Ken Jennings said when he was defeated in the television game show Jeopardy! by Watson, an artificially intelligent machine built by IBM. There's a short video on this. There's also a longer PBS NOVA documentary on this. Show More Summary

The Turing Test for Emerging Consciousness in a Chinese Room or a Human Brain

I have argued for explaining the human mind as an emergent property of the human brain once it passed over a critical threshold of size and complexity in the evolution of the primate brain. If that is true, then one might wonder whether technological evolution could do for robots what biological evolution has done for humans. Show More Summary

Darwinian Natural Right in the Punisher's Brain

"Evolution built us to punish cheaters."Thus does Morris Hoffman begin his fascinating new book--The Punisher's Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury (Cambridge University Press, 2014). Hoffman is a trial judge in Denver, Colorado,Show More Summary

Are Psychopaths Still Moral Strangers?

Serial killer Brian Dugan in a June 3, 1985, DuPage County (Illinois) mug shot Jeanine Nicarico, 10, one of Dugan's victimsIn Darwinian Natural Right (first published in 1998), I have a chapter on psychopathy ("The Poverty of Psychopathic Desire"), in which I identify psychopaths as moral strangers. Show More Summary

Fourth Edition of "Political Questions: Political Philosophy from Plato to Pinker"

I have finished writing the fourth edition of Political Questions: Political Philosophy from Plato to Pinker, which will be published by Waveland Press. I have revised every chapter, and I have added three entirely new chapters on Adam Smith, Leo Strauss, and Steven Pinker. Show More Summary

Nietzschean Nihilism, Natural Right, and Liberal Education

The failure to solve what Leo Strauss identified as the problem of natural right led Strauss and his students to embrace Nietzsche's value-positing nihilism. This led to a Nietzschean view of liberal education as promoting the life of artist-philosophers who create new values as an expression of their will to power. Show More Summary

Liberal Education in a Liberal Democracy: The Philosophic Few? The Cognitive Elite? The Excellent Sheep?

In the summer of 2008, The American Scholar published an essay by William Deresiewicz entitled "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education." He stated his main point in one sentence: "Our best universities have forgotten that the reason...Show More Summary

Strauss, Jonas, and Heidegger's Nazism

As I have indicated in my posts on Will Altman's German Stranger, I see his claim that Leo Strauss was a Jewish Nazi as wildly implausible. And yet, Altman does point out the strange and disturbing refusal of Strauss to be clear and emphatic in his rejection of those like Martin Heidegger who embraced Nazism. Show More Summary

Culture Is Part of Human Nature: Jesse Prinz and the Incest Taboo

According to Jesse Prinz, "every cultural trait is really a biocultural trait," because "every trait that we acquire through learning involves an interaction between biology and the environment." Consequently, "there is no sharp contrast between nature and nurture." "Nurture depends on nature, and nature exists in the service of nurture" (367). Show More Summary

Prinz's Deceptive Silence in His Arguments for Emotivism and Cultural Relativism

In Beyond Human Nature, Jesse Prinz argues for emotivism and cultural relativism in his account of human morality. In doing this, he employs the rhetorical technique of deceptive silence. What I mean by this is that in presenting the...Show More Summary

Does the Flynn Effect Show the Success of Scientific Enlightenment and Thus Refute Strauss?

According to Leo Strauss, there is a fundamental dispute between premodern philosophy and modern philosophy. Ancient and medieval philosophers generally believed that there was a permanent conflict between the philosophic life as the quest for truth and the moral, religious, or political life as based on opinion. Show More Summary

Jesse Prinz's Contradictions in His Account of Sex Differences

Two contradictions run throughout Jesse Prinz's argument for going "beyond human nature."The first contradiction is that he begins his book by saying that biological determinism is a straw man, because almost none of the naturists defend...Show More Summary

Jesse Prinz's Mistaken Account of the IQ Debate

In my course on "Biopolitics and Human Nature" this semester, we have begun with the debate over human nature, or we might call it the nature-nurture debate. The two main readings for this debate are my Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological...Show More Summary

Strauss, Slavery, and Darwinian Natural Right

Ant slave rebellion? Enslaved ants destroying a pupa of the slave-making colonyIn Natural Right and History, Strauss doesn't give many examples of natural right. But one example that appears repeatedly is slavery (23, 103-104, 118, 121, 159). Show More Summary

The Evolution of America's Cognitive Elite Through Assortative Mating

The cover story for the January 24th issue of The Economist is "America's New Aristocracy." Although there is no reference to Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve (1994), what is reported in these articles confirm Herrnstein...Show More Summary

Was Leo Strauss a Midwest Straussian?

I am now working hard to finish up my revisions of the 4th edition of Political Questions: Political Philosophy from Plato to Pinker. I am adding some totally new chapters, including one on Leo Strauss. As you can see from the previous post, I am wondering whether Strauss was an esoteric writer and, if he was, what his esoteric teaching was. Show More Summary

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