Evolutionary Psychology, Rape, and the Naturalistic Fallacy

Journal of the Society of Philosophical Studies 134:65-93 (2021)
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Feminist critics of evolutionary psychology are often accused of committing the naturalistic fallacy, that is, of inferring certain normative conclusions from evolutionary psychology’s purely descriptive accounts. This article refutes the accusation of the naturalistic fallacy, by showing that evolutionary psychology’s accounts of human behavior are not purely descriptive, but rather grounded on biased value judgments. A paradigmatic example is Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer’s well-known book A Natural History of Rape. I argue that at least three biased judgments are at work in Thornhill and Palmer’s evolutionary psychology account of rape: (1) adaptationist approaches to evolution, (2) willful ignorance of cultural and social context, and (3) binary understanding of gender and sex. In that Thornhill and Palmer’s account cannot hold without the three biased value judgments, it is not a purely factual description of rape. Therefore, feminist concerns over its normative implications do not commit the naturalistic fallacy, as it is not the case that they infer a normative conclusion from a pure description.

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Youjin Kong
University of Georgia


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