Law as a Reflection of Emotion and Human Nature
Hendrik Gommer, A BIOLOGICAL THEORY OF LAW, Chapter 7, pp. 131-159, Seattle: Amazon, 2011
27 Pages Posted: 30 May 2011
Date Written: May 26, 2011
Although many sociobiologists are reticent to state that prescriptives reflect descriptives, such a derivation, if arrived at prudently, is inevitable to make a major step forward in integrating biology, psychology, sociology and law. Our normative behavior should be in line with our biological drives, mediated by our emotions that clearly have biological causes. The results of the research presented in this article justify the conclusion that some intuitions on harm are very strong, especially when they concern our next of kin. Our intuitions on harm done to out-group people are more open to circumstantial and cultural influences. Through law, strangers can also be treated as group members. Although law cannot be reduced to biology, biological mechanisms can improve our understanding of some basic notions underlying our laws. The main conclusion is that legal punishment and law reflect our emotions and therefore underlying biological mechanisms. The greater the harm inflicted, the greater our shock and the stronger our punitive response. This correlation seems to be exponential, which supports the idea that punishment reflects the level of shock and is in fact an accurate measurement of how shocked people are. In other words, our normative valuations reflect our factual state of mind.
Keywords: naturalistic fallacy, punishment, emotion, justice, law, biology, in-group, out-group, human nature
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