Evolutionary social psychology, natural history & the history of ideas
The aim of this dissertation is to analyse two notions which inform contemporary evolutionary psychology. In Part I Tooby and Cosmides' (1992) Standard Model thesis of the history of twentieth century social science is examined with regard to social psychology. In Part II the practical and theoretical fecundity of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness is examined, again with regard to social psychology. The analysis of the Standard Model thesis yields the result that it is not reliable as an intellectual history of social psychology. A principal reason for this is the failure of the thesis to acknowledge the instinct debate of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Further consideration of the instinct debate leads to the conclusion that evolutionary psychology may be in the process of repeating the history of social psychology rather than making substantive advances. The analysis of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness concept yields two results. Firstly, in use it fails to accommodate the findings of palaeontology. Secondly, it promotes a view of mental capacity and functioning that is at odds with that of modern humans. Further consideration of the natural history of the human lineage leads to the conclusion that the past was not, in some sense, ontogenetically prior to the present and that it will not furnish social psychology with an adaptation that functions in a predictable manner. In Part III it is recommended that an evolutionary approach to social psychology should dispense with the concept of adaptation as proposed by evolutionary psychology.