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Law and Biology: The New Synthesis?

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  • Source:
    Saint Louis University Law Journal, 1997/04/01, Vol: 41, p595
  • Additional Information
    • Author:
      E. Donald Elliott
    • Abstract:
      For the last two thousand years, we have made remarkably little progress in moral philosophy, or its stepchild, jurisprudence, by attacking the field as a matter of a priori philosophy. Recently, a different approach has begun to be used, which is to treat morality as an empirical matter subject to scientific study. I am thinking of the work of Carol Gilligan, 2 or Jim Fishkin's Beyond Subjective Morality , 3 or Roger Masters' Beyond Relativism , 4 and some of the work in evolutionary psychology by people like Robin Wright 5 and Matt Ridley. 6 Much of this literature is summarized and extended in Frans de Waal's recent book, Good Natured , 7 on the evolutionary basis of morality. These works all look at what we previously thought of as abstract issues of moral philosophy as empirical issues of social science. One subset of the movement to take a more empirical approach to the study of issues of morality and norms in law is called the "Law and Biology" movement. The "Law and Biology" movement was founded by Margaret Gruter in the 1980s. Margaret had actually been working in this field since the 1970s, and published a number of interesting articles. 8 However, beginning in the middle of the 1980s she began an organized effort to interest other lawyers in the approach. Since that time, there has been a remarkable effort centered around an institution called the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, which has trained over ...
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