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Title: Evolution and social theory : the problem of culture
Author: Sharp, Keith
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1991
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The primary aim of this thesis is to establish that the central tenets of conventional social theory cannot be sustained in the light of modern evolutionary biological theory (the theory of inclusive fitness). In particular, it is argued that the central social scientific assumption of a radical separation between biology and culture raises insuperable problems for the formulation of the motivation of action, when the logical consequences of modern Darwinian biology are fully considered. At the same time, however, it is argued that recent attempts to apply evolutionary theory to the direct analysis of human social behaviour - human sociobiology - have been fundamentally unsuccessful, theoretically, but above all, empirically. The central problem which the thesis formulates, therefore, is of how to conceptualize human action as motivated in accordance with the expectations of evolutionary biology, whilst recognizing that such action does not necessarily conform either in its immediate subjectivity, or in its objective distal consequences, to the predicted patterns of inclusive fitness theory. The solution to this problem is sought through an analysis of the level of phenotypic selection at which explanations should proceed; it is concluded from this that the appropriate level must be that of psychological mechanism, and that the sociobological emphasis on overt behavioural pattern crucially ignores the interactive nature of the gene-environment relationship. Accordingly, it is argued that only by proceeding at the level of psychological mechanism, can the motivation of culture in general, and in particular maladaptive behaviour, be understood in terms of evolutionary theory. Through an examination of the evolutionary logic of psychological models, it is argued that evolutionary theory strongly suggests a model which resembles, in important respects, that advanced by classical psychoanalytic theory. In particular, it is argued that the psychoanalytic conception of motivation, and the special relationship which Freud conceived between instincts and objects permits an analysis of empirical behavioural variation - even maladaptive variation - in full accordance with the expectations of evolutionary theory. The final chapters of the thesis illustrate the method of analysis proposed with reference to the example of apparently maladaptive variation in human sexual behaviour.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available