Why egalitarians should embrace Darwinism: a critical defence of Peter Singer's a Darwinian left
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Despite most educated people now accepting Darwinian explanations for human physical evolution, many of these same people remain reluctant to accept similar accounts of human behavioural or cognitive evolution. Leftists in particular often assume that our evolutionary history now has little bearing on modern human social behaviour, and that cultural processes have taken over from the biological imperatives at work elsewhere in nature. The leftist view of human nature still largely reflects that of Karl Marx, who believed that our nature is moulded solely by prevailing social and cultural conditions, and that, moreover, our nature can be completely changed by totally changing society. Ethical philosopher Peter Singer challenges this leftist view, arguing that the left must replace its non-Darwinian view of an infinitely malleable human nature with the more accurate scientific account now made possible by modern Darwinian evolutionary science. Darwinism, Singer suggests, could then be used as a source of new ideas and new approaches that could revive and revitalise the egalitarian left. This thesis defends and develops Singer’s arguments for a Darwinian left. It shows that much modern leftist opposition to evolutionary theory is misguided, and that Darwinism does not necessarily have the egregious political implications so often assumed by the egalitarian left – even in such controversial areas as possible ‘biological’ differences between the sexes or between different human populations.