Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 11, No 1 (2015)

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The Science of Human Nature and the Social Contract

Peter Corning


One of the most important political challenges of our time - indeed of all times - is social justice.  It was first addressed as a philosophical issue in Plato's great dialogue, the Republic, and it has been a continuing theme in the "tradition of discourse" ever since.  As I will argue, Plato's analysis and conclusions represent a sound foundation and a starting point for advancing a new social justice paradigm that is undergirded by the emerging, multi-disciplinary science of human nature, which is briefly overviewed here.  I refer to it as a "biosocial contract," and it involves three empirically-grounded fairness precepts - equality, equity, and reciprocity -- that together form a new normative framework for guiding social policy.  The obvious logical objection to such a normative undertaking, commonly referred to as the "naturalistic fallacy," is briefly considered from the perspective of the biological problem of survival and reproduction and the fundamental nature of a human society as, quintessentially, a "collective survival enterprise." Logic aside, the reality is that we are all required to make unavoidable choices.

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