Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Gerald E. Markle
Dr. Douglas Davidson
Dr. Ronald Kramer
Dr. Arthur Helweg
This dissertation is a critical discourse with three prominent trends in contemporary sociology. It is a critique of Emile Durkheim's admonition that sociological analysis, by definition, requires the exclusion of biological and psychological data. It shows, in contrast, that the exclusion of biosocial data removes vast sources of information which are useful and necessary in any interpretation of human behavior. This work also demonstrates that a biosocial perspective facilitates the development of a transcultural theory of human needs, which, if utilized, would enable sociologists to clarify a number of unproductive disciplinary conflicts concerning the definition and extent of social problems.
Secondly, in developing an original biocritical perspective, this dissertation indicates that there is no necessary relationship between biosocial or evolutionary arguments and political conservatism. This is made clear with an historical and textual analysis of the works of Edward Wilson, the leading contemporary sociobiologist, and Robert Richards, the leading contemporary proponent of evolutionary ethics. The examination of Wilson and Richards also makes clear that the evaluative and indicative modes cannot be separated in sociological analysis, but that each cannot, therefore, be reduced to the other. All evaluation presupposes empirical referents.
Finally, this dissertation demonstrates the sociological utility of the biocritical approach by a re-reading of the works of Robert Bellah and others in the communitarian tradition. It establishes, contrary to Bellah, that an individualistic analysis need not embrace the self-centered political and social attitudes criticized by Bellan and other communitarians. A biocritical perspective shows that communitarian analyses would be strengthened by an individualistic theory of human needs.
In conclusion, this dissertation shows that there are warranted reasons for sociologists to utilize biosocial data. It shows that there is no necessary connection between political conservatism and evolutionary reasoning and evidence. In demonstrates that sociologists should make use of relevant data, no matter the source, and that Durkheim was fundamentally mistaken in his categorical exclusion of all biological and psychological data and categories of analysis.
Neuhaus, John, "Toward a Biocritical Sociology" (1995). Dissertations. 1777.