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The Darwinian Tension: Romantic Science and the Causal Laws of Nature

Greif, Hajo (2015) The Darwinian Tension: Romantic Science and the Causal Laws of Nature. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 53. pp. 53-61. ISSN 1369-8486

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Abstract

There have been attempts to subsume Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution under either one of two distinct intellectual traditions: early Victorian natural science and its descendants in political economy (as exemplified by Herschel, Lyell, or Malthus) and the romantic approach to art and science emanating from Germany (as exemplified by Humboldt and Goethe). In this paper, it will be shown how these traditions may have jointly contributed to the design of Darwin’s theory. The hypothesis is that their encounter created a particular tension in the conception of his theory which first opened up its characteristic field and mode of explanation. On the one hand, the domain of the explanandum was conceived of under a holistic and aesthetic view of nature that, in its combination with refined techniques of observation, was deeply indebted to Humboldt in particular. On the other hand, Darwin fashioned explanations for natural phenomena, so conceived, in order to identify their proper causes in a Herschelian spirit. The particular interaction between these two traditions in Darwin, it is concluded, paved the way for a transfer of the idea of causal laws to animate nature while salvaging the romantic idea of a complex, teleological and harmonious order of nature.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Greif, Hajomail@hajo-greif.net0000-0002-1003-7494
Keywords: Charles Darwin, Alexander von Humboldt, John F.W. Herschel, Teleology in nature, Aesthetics of nature, Causal explanation
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Depositing User: Dr. Hajo Greif
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2021 23:44
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2021 23:44
Item ID: 19775
Journal or Publication Title: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.07.003
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.07.003
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Date: 7 August 2015
Page Range: pp. 53-61
Volume: 53
ISSN: 1369-8486
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19775

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