From the 'Is' to the 'Ought': A Biological Theory of Law

Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, pp. 449-468, 2010

21 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2011 Last revised: 21 May 2011

See all articles by Hendrik Gommer

Hendrik Gommer

CIS Law; University of Groningen

Date Written: January 3, 2010


In this article the naturalistic fallacy is challenged. It is a barrier that should be removed in order to make a necessary next step towards thinking about the biological foundations of law.

Moore’s naturalistic fallacy and Hume’s is ought-problem imply a barrier between law and biology. However, we are constantly deriving the ought from the is. Biology can explain why people sometimes value killing another human being as ‘good’ (i.e. ‘ought’) and sometimes as ‘bad’ (i.e. ‘ought not’). Killing the enemy is good because it saves our children, killing my neighbour is bad because it destabilises society. Morals and rules have evolved from biological facts and are the result of interaction between genes and their surroundings. They are a product of our brain as all interpretations of facts are. As a result, ‘goodness’ can be regarded as a biological phenomenon. Inevitable as this conclusion may be, it looks like scientists hesitate to accept it.

The proposed biological theory of law has been eloborated in Hendrik Gommer, A Biological Theory of Law: Amazon 2011.

Keywords: is-ought problem, natural law, biology, hume, moore, naturalistic fallacy, emotion, foundations, morality, ethics

Suggested Citation

Gommer, Hendrik, From the 'Is' to the 'Ought': A Biological Theory of Law (January 3, 2010). Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, pp. 449-468, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Hendrik Gommer (Contact Author)

CIS Law ( email )

De Bongerd 2A
Zuidhorn, Groningen 9801 AS


University of Groningen ( email )

P.O. Box 800
9700 AH Groningen, Groningen 9700 AV

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