The Science of Human Nature and the Social Contract


  • Peter Corning Institute for the Study of Complex Systems


Social justice, fairness, Plato, Sophists, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Rawls, basic needs, equity, reciprocity, naturalistic fallacy


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.




How to Cite

Corning, P. (2015). The Science of Human Nature and the Social Contract. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 11(1), 15–40. Retrieved from