Darwinism and the Study of Society: A Centenary Symposium

By Michael Banton | Go to book overview

CONCLUSIONS
I must now try to bring together the main threads of my argument. The principle conclusions which suggest themselves are as follows:
a. (a) Human evolution is continuous with animal evolution as regards both body and mind.
b. (b) Mental evolution in man differs radically from mental evolution in the animal world in the part played by social factors, i.e. interactions between minds. This interaction vastly extends the powers of mind, not only directly but indirectly, by enabling its products or achievements to contribute towards further achievements.
c. (c) Progress in human evolution consists in the growth of rationality, that is, the systematic organisation of thought and experience.
d. (d) The concept of rationality applies to action as well as to thought. The criteria of advance are substantially the same for both spheres.
e. (e) The organisation of action consists partly in the use made of the knowledge of nature to serve human ends, and partly in disclosing the nature of these ends and the construction of ideal ends. Whether the advance makes for social progress depends not only on the growth of knowledge and of moral insight, but on the extent to which such knowledge and insight are embodied in social institutions, and through them shape behaviour and mould character.
f. (f) Development is very uneven in different spheres of thought and action. Thus, advance in ethical ideals may leave religion for long unaffected, and scientific discoveries may not be accompanied by changes in moral or religious outlook. The evolution of the social structure, the evolution of scientific thought and the evolution of religion or of morals follow their own course and have their own history. Their relations to each other are very variable and complex. They differ in their rate of change, the readiness to which advances can be transmitted or diffused from one centre to another, and in their liability to retrogression. Hence the difficulties of prediction. In the later phases, however, the various developments tend to converge, and as the connections between them come to be better understood, conscious efforts towards their harmonization become possible. There may well be critical points beyond which advance will be more continuous and assured.

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Darwinism and the Study of Society: A Centenary Symposium
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Editor's Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Darwin's Place in the History of Thought 1
  • References 16
  • The Intellectual Background of Charles Darwin's Student Years at Edinburgh 17
  • Darwinism and Human Society in Retrospect 37
  • Natural and Social Selection 49
  • The Human Evolutionary System 63
  • Evolution and History 83
  • Social Evolution 95
  • Conclusions 125
  • Social Mind and Animal Brain 129
  • Communication in Animal and Human Societies 139
  • Social Norms and Social Evolution the Analogy of Animal Behaviour 153
  • The Autonomy of Post-Darwinian Sociology 167
  • Notes on Contributors 181
  • Index 185
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