The Relation between Natural Sciences and Law: Why the Thesis of an Innate ‘Universal Moral Grammar’ and its Relevance for Law as Argued by John Mikhail Fails

XXVII World Congress of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy” in Washington D.C., USA, from 27 July to 1 August 2015.

13 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2016

See all articles by Lando Kirchmair

Lando Kirchmair

Universiät der Bundeswehr Munich - Institute for Public Law and Public International Law; University of Salzburg - Institute for Public Law, European Union Law and Public International Law

Date Written: April 20, 2015

Abstract

The thesis of an innate Universal Moral Grammar (‘UMG’) relies upon an analogy to the thesis of a universal grammar of the human faculty of language in linguistics. Drawing upon this faculty, John Mikhail, among others, argues that we humans have an inborn moral grammar. In this paper this fascinating thesis is juxtaposed with critical perspectives and criticism from the various fields on which it is based. While there might be room for further research within the relevant fields in the natural sciences, the insecurities thus revealed forbid the use of UMG for law, something Mikhail actually suggested doing. Thus, the core argument of this paper is that the relevance of UMG for law as claimed by Mikhail, for instance, to advise judges when identifying customary international (criminal) law or general principles of law, has to be rejected. To strengthen this argument I briefly elaborate on the is/ought debate and then engage in a thought experiment on Richard Dawkins’ ‘selfish gene’ in order to address the relationship between natural sciences and law in more general terms as well.

Suggested Citation

Kirchmair, Lando, The Relation between Natural Sciences and Law: Why the Thesis of an Innate ‘Universal Moral Grammar’ and its Relevance for Law as Argued by John Mikhail Fails (April 20, 2015). XXVII World Congress of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy” in Washington D.C., USA, from 27 July to 1 August 2015., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2767508 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2767508

Lando Kirchmair (Contact Author)

Universiät der Bundeswehr Munich - Institute for Public Law and Public International Law ( email )

Werner-Heisenberg-Weg 39
Neubiberg
Munich, 85577
Germany

University of Salzburg - Institute for Public Law, European Union Law and Public International Law ( email )

Kapitelgasse 5-7
Salzburg, 5020
Austria

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
81
Abstract Views
597
rank
372,170
PlumX Metrics