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Darwin-L Message Log 1:256 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<1:256>From junger@samsara.law.cwru.edu  Wed Sep 29 11:35:52 1993

Date: Wed, 29 Sep 93 11:54:19 EDT
From: junger@samsara.law.cwru.edu (Peter D. Junger)
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Cultural change and historical ("Darwinian") explanations

    Since my work does not necessitate that I have an understanding
of how biological species or individuals evolve, I am not in a position
to comment on most of the recent postings on heritability and cultural
evolution.

    But I would like to say that a major problem in understanding
how various legal institutions (such as heritability ;-) function within
a "legal system" lies in our tendency to see legal institutions and
systems either as being intentionally designed to function the way that
they do or as being deducible from first principles (or reducible to
differential equations) without regard to the direction of time or the
environment in which they developed.

    I am convinced that as long as we attempt to understand legal,
and other cultural, institutions in either of those ways we are doomed
to failure.

    The solution, if there is one, to that problem would seem to be
to attempt to understand such institutions in terms of their historical
development, in terms of their historical interactions with their
environment.  That is, the solution is to see cultural institutions as
the product of "Darwinian" or "evolutionary" processes.

    And it does not require one to have much of a theory as to what
those "Darwinian" or "evolutionary" processes are for them to function
as an antidote to the equally empty "theories" that cultural
institutions are the product of human design or of logical deductions
from first principles.

Peter D. Junger

Case Western Reserve University Law School, Cleveland, OH
Internet:  JUNGER@SAMSARA.LAW.CWRU.Edu -- Bitnet:  JUNGER@CWRU

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