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Darwinian Conservatism (Societas) Paperback – August 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"This book should be welcomed by those who are concerned with the social and political ramifications of the theory of evolution."

(Allen Thompson Philosophical Books)

"A well argued book... Of special interest will be the author's discussion of Darwinism and religion."


"Arnhart succeeds in his limited goal of demonstrating that Darwinian theory, properly understood, supports conservative social and political ideas while discrediting leftist utopianism."

(James Seaton Weekly Standard)

"There is much to be said in defense of both the realist view of the human being and the biological basis of human conduct and society. Arnhart takes up these important issues in a judicious and informed manner, and his delivery is intelligent, careful, and devoid of posturing or special pleading."

(Eugene Heath The European Legacy)

"Arnhart's thesis, which he proves abundantly, is that the constraints of our biological nature explode the most persistent delusions of the Left... consequently a Darwinian politics is a largely conservative politics... Arnhart is to be commended for producing an excellent book about conservative thought."

(Antony Flew Right Now!)

"Darwinian Conservatism... is a work marked by clarity of purpose, prose, and argument that one rarely finds in academic writing... Arnhart's project to offer a Darwinian account of conservative political philosophy should be taken seriously. Conservative critics of Darwin ignore Arnhart at their own peril."

(Francis Beckwith The Review of Politics)

"This outstanding Societas essay is strongly recommended."

(David Ashton Salisbury Review)

"The argument is conscientious, documented, and timely. Whether this excellent work will convince many conservatives is a different question."

(John Gross New Criterion)

"Arnhart's book is a sustained and impressive attempt to give a Darwinian underpinning to conservative social thought."

(Paul Crook Australian Journal of Politics and History)

"Morality, aid to others, political freedom and the rest can be perfectly well defended from a Darwinian perspective; Arnhart has done a very good job of doing so."

(Timothy Sandefur Reports of the National Center of Science Education)

About the Author

Larry Arnhart is a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University. He is the author of Aristotle on Political Reasoning, Political Questions: Political Philosophy from Plato to Rawls, and Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature.

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Product Details

  • Series: Societas
  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Imprint Academic (August 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0907845991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0907845997
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,308,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kenneth D. Willis on January 6, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The one other review here by H. Gintis is nonsense. Arnhart is one of the most thoughtful conservative academic thinkers of our time. To get a peek at him look up the debate he had in First Things with Demski, Johnson et al. a few years ago. It's easy to find with Google.

This is a great little book jam packed with conservative ideas that are found only in dis-jointed form elsewhere. For example, where else have you read or heard discussed Hayek's idea of "spontaneous order?" This was a profound insight by Fredric von Hayek, and virtually unknown to most conservatives who think they know Hayek. At 144 pages you can read this book in an evening, and if you're an open-minded conservative you'll feel great and sleep well.

Those conservatives who have fallen for and swallowed whole the vacuous and silly arguments about "intelligent design" will admittedly have a little harder time with this book. There is no religion bashing. Quite the contrary. But the intelligent design claptrap is simply not accepted as either science or good religion.

If you are a center or center-right thinking person whose mind is open, or if you are a hard right religious conservative but have some room left in your brain for a little cognitive dissonance, this book and it's arguments will expand your horizons. This is a book that will be profitable even to those who ultimately disagree with it. But of course, if you read it you may be persuaded. Buy it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was initially skeptical about this book, getting it only because it was cited positively in an article in The New Atlantis that dealt with Jonathan Haidt's impressive book on evolutionary psychology ("The Righteous Mind"). But to my pleasant surprise, it provided useful perspectives on a great many issues. Sent a copy to my step son, who is also interested in sorting out moral issues.
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Format: Paperback
Mired as I am in the vacuum that passes for “higher education” in the early 21st century, I appreciate all attempts by academics themselves to cut against the politically correct progressive grain. I can now add Larry Arnhart’s Darwinian Conservatism to the unfortunately short list of those heretical attempts. A couple of years ago I read a journal article by Arnhart that briefly summarized the argument he makes in this book, but I did not get around to reading the book itself until a few months ago. It did not disappoint me. In fewer than two hundred lucid pages Arnhart makes the case that I had been making myself on more intuitive grounds for years. Arnhart argues that conservative, especially Christian, thinkers err when they conflate those of us who are both conservative (or libertarian, in my case) and believers in Darwinism with our progressive leftwing colleagues. Darwin’s theory is wholly incompatible with a progressive worldview, a fact our social-engineering colleagues have been scrambling to rectify ever since Dawkins hit them with The Selfish Gene back in the seventies. Pinker’s The Blank Slate really threw them into a tizzy, instigating a mad rush to distort reality sufficiently to recover some semblance of their credibility—or, in some quarters, to soften reality’s blow as much as possible without appearing more ludicrous than they already do. The current generation of young American college students (I have sadly discovered) is showing less of an inclination than their predecessors to look past the indoctrination they receive in the American public school system, but they are still as bright as ever, and there are still those among them who seek education in lieu of indoctrination.Read more ›
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Larry Arnhart is a serious, perceptive ethical philosopher whose works deserve praise (and to be read), but this book is a failure. The arguments are weak and will certainly fail to convince most "conservatives" to embrace Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Evolutionary biology is scientifically correct, which is the main reason it must be accepted by anyone, whatever their political philosophy (Arnhart does not stress this). However, Darwinian biology can be either used or ignored in making political arguments, so I will rephrase the issue as: are there good arguments flowing from evolutionary biology for conservative political philosophy?

We must note that at least in the USA, there are two quite different branches of conservativism, one espousing religious fundamentalism and the other classical economic liberalism. They have almost nothing in common intellectually and are simply politically linked by historical events. Arnhart does not stress this point.

Arnhart's arguments directed towards religious conservatism can be summarized as: (a) evolutionary biology is compatible with belief in God; (b) evolutionary biology recognizes and reinforces the notion that religious belief is a universal element of human nature; and (c) a strong adherence to family values is part of human nature. I agree with these statements, but Arnhart never addresses the burning issues, which include abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, and state-religion separation. He does deal with intelligent design, which he rejects as a scientific theory. This is in part why I call his book "disingenuous:" he simply avoids the hard topics.

Turning to classical liberalism, Arnhart says that Darwinian evolution supports a Burkean political philosophy.
Read more ›
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