Progress and Pragmatism: James, Dewey, Beard, and the American Idea of Progress

By David W. Marcell | Go to book overview

3
The Evolutionary Dialogue

Charles Darwin did not, of course, invent the idea of evolution. For a full century before Origin of Species appeared (its complete title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Strugglefor Life), the inadequacies of special creation and the fixed hierarchy of the great chain of being had slowly been forcing themselves on reluctant scientists. Even Linnaeus, whose elaborate system of taxonomy attempted to flesh out the chain- of-being concept in its remotest particular, had by the end of his life recognized that its staticism was inadequate to the bewildering variety of nature's morphological forms. Gradually, the possibility that species ebbed and flowed in some evolutionary fashion--or at least that they varied significantly in differing geological periods--became widely accepted. George Louis Buffon, Jean Baptiste Lamarck, Erasmus Darwin (Charles's grandfather), Baron George Cuvier, and Sir Charles Lyell had all affirmed a qualified evolutionism, though each for different reasons stopped short of Charles Darwin's conclusions. By the time Origin of Species appeared in 1859, the likelihood

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Progress and Pragmatism: James, Dewey, Beard, and the American Idea of Progress
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Formalism, Degradation, and Pragmatism 3
  • 2 - The Heritage of Progress 52
  • 3 - The Evolutionary Dialogue 93
  • 4 - William James: Experience and Meliorism 146
  • 5 - John Dewey: The Experimentalist Criterion 196
  • 6 - Charles Beard: Civilization in America 258
  • 7 - Progress, Experience, and History 322
  • Notes 335
  • Selected Bibliography 373
  • Index 395
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