Darwin and Modern Science: Essays in Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Charles Darwin and of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of the Origin of Species

By A. C. Seward | Go to book overview

XXIII
DARWINISM AND SOCIOLOGY

BY C. BOUGLÉ.

Professor of Social Philosophy in the University of Toulouse and Deputy-Professor at the Sorbonne, Paris.

HOW has our conception of social phenomena, and of their history, been affected by Darwin's conception of Nature and the laws of its transformations? To what extent and in what particular respects have the discoveries and hypotheses of the author of The Origin of Species aided the efforts of those who have sought to construct a science of society?

To such a question it is certainly not easy to give any brief or precise answer. We find traces of Darwinism almost everywhere. Sociological systems differing widely from each other have laid claim to its authority; while, on the other hand, its influence has often made itself felt only in combination with other influences. The Darwinian thread is worked into a hundred patterns along with other threads.

To deal with the problem, we must, it seems, first of all distinguish the more general conclusions in regard to the evolution of living beings, which are the outcome of Darwinism, from the particular explanations it offers of the ways and means by which that evolution is effected. That is to say, we must, as far as possible, estimate separately the influence of Darwin as an evolutionist and Darwin as a selectionist.

The nineteenth century, said Cournot, has witnessed a mighty effort to "réintégrer l'homme dans la nature." From divers quarters there has been a methodical reaction against the persistent dualism of the Cartesian tradition, which was itself the unconscious heir of the Christian tradition. Even the philosophy of the eighteenth century, materialistic as were for the most part the tendencies of its leaders, seemed to revere man as a being apart, concerning whom laws might be formulated à priori. To bring him down from his pedestal there was needed the marked predominance of positive researches wherein no account was taken of the "pride of man." There can be no doubt that Darwin has done much to familiarise us with

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