Sunday, May 22, 2011

Property and Monogamy

In her recent book Braintrust (pp. 58-59), philosopher Patricia Churchland presents an interesting theory concerning the connection between property and monogamy.  Drawing on the research of evolutionary biologists Laura Fortunato and Marco Archetti, she states that when men have multiple wives with children and thus multiple heirs, "transferring resources to all heirs results in depletion of their fitness value. . ." because the bequeathed land gets smaller and smaller.  If a man selected one wife's children to inherit from him, this would produce conflict.  On the other hand, the most evolutionary stable strategy would be to have one wife and invest heavily in the welfare of her children.  She states "monogamy emerged in Eurasia as agriculture became widespread, with land and herds as an important source of wealth that could be passed to heirs."

The above is a good example of why we need to understand human behavior and how it evolved in relation to the environment to understand the foundation of our legal rules.


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