Development and Purpose: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Evolution

By L. T. Hobhouse | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE TWO ORDERS

(1) THE problem of thought in its higher phases, whether as Philosophy or as Science, as Religion or as Art, is one of Reconstruction. The origin and nature of this problem only becomes fully intelligible in the light of the theory of evolution. That the deliverances orordinary perception and the inferences of common sense should possess a certain validity and yet provide a very inadequate basis for a final interpretation of reality is in general terms perfectly intelligible to the evolutionist. For the student of mental evolution, perception and thought are alike functions of a structure which has grown up under the conditions of survival. What is generally necessary to such structures is merely that they should answer their purpose, and their purpose -- or rather their function -- is that of preserving the stock. For this it is necessary at bottom that they should induce suitable motor responses to changes of the environment. One way in which this might be done is certainly by the growth of a structure whose function should consist precisely in cognition -- in knowing what the environment is, how it changes, and how it is going to change. But (a) this is not the only possible method of adjustment. The study of reflex action and of instinct yields overwhelming evidence that behaviour may be adjusted to the requirements of the organism in accordance with changes of the environment without knowledge on the part of the organism of what it is doing or why it is doing it. It is thus at least possible that there should be a point to point correspondence between changes in the

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