Development and Purpose: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Evolution

Development and Purpose: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Evolution

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Development and Purpose: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Evolution

Development and Purpose: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Evolution

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The field covered in this volume is wide and the treatment in many parts is necessarily short and summary. In justification it must be said here that the book completes a scheme which has occupied the writer for twenty-six years and has been carried through successive stages in three previous works. But in the meantime it was inevitable that the scheme itself should change and expand, and the precise aim of this final instalment will therefore be most readily explained by giving a slight account of the manner in which the subject developed in the writer's mind during the somewhat extended period in question.

In the middle of the "Eighties," when the writer was first studying philosophy, the biological theory of evolution was already very generally accepted, and the philosophical extension of the theory by Mr. Herbert Spencer was, except in academic circles, in the heyday of its influence. Philosophically Mr. Spencer was not a materialist. But his metaphysical safeguards did not rescue the evolution theory from some of the most unfortunate consequences of a materialistic system. Evolution, as thus interpreted, meant, in its bearing on human life and action, essentially two things. It meant that the human mind must be regarded as an organ like the lungs or the liver evolved in the struggle for existence with the function of adjusting the behaviour of the organism to its environment. It was . . .

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