THE INFLUENCE OF DARWIN ON AMERICAN PRAGMATISM

 

Pragmatism is the “foundation” of multicultural relativism in the 21st century! The following is Dewey’s discussion of Darwinian influence on American Philosophy.

 

“. . .That the combination of the very words origin and species embodied an intellectual revolt and introduced a new intellectual temper is easily overlooked by the expert. The conceptions that had reigned in the philosophy of nature and knowledge for two thousand years, the conceptions that had become the familiar furniture of the mind, rested on the assumption of the superiority of the fixed and final; they rested upon treating change and origin as signs of defect and unreality. In laying hands upon the sacred ark of absolute permanency, in treating the forms that had been regarded as types of fixity and perfection as originating and passing away, the “Origin of Species” introduced a mode of thinking that in the end was bound to transform the logic of knowledge, and hence the treatment of morals, politics, and religion. . . . But for two decades before final publication he contemplated the possibility of being put down by his scientific peers as a fool or as crazy; and he set, as the measure of his success, the degree in which he should affect three men of science: Lyell in Geology, Hooker in Botany, and Huxley in Zoology. . . . Without the methods of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and their successors in Astronomy, Physics, and Chemistry, Darwin would have been helpless in the organic sciences. . . . As we have already seen, the classic notion of species carried with it the idea of purpose. . . . The design argument thus operated in two directions. Purposefulness accounted for the intelligibility of nature and the possibility of science, while the absolute or cosmic character of this purposefulness gave sanction and worth to the moral and religious endeavors of man. Science was underpinned and morals authorized by one and the same principle, and their mutual agreement was eternally guaranteed. . .the preparation in earlier stages of growth for organs that only later had their functioning--these things were increasingly recognized with the progresses of Botany, Zoology, Paleontology, and Embryology. Together they added such prestige to the design argument that by the late eighteenth century it was. . .the central point of theistic and idealistic philosophy.

 

“. . .the Darwinian principle of natural selection cut straight under this philosophy. . . . So much for some of the more obvious facts of the discussion of design versus chance, as causal principles of nature and of life as a whole. We brought up this discussion, as a crucial instance. What does our touchstone indicate as to the bearing of Darwinian ideas upon philosophy? In the first place, the new logic outlaws. . .one type of problems and substitutes for yet another type. Philosophy foresees inquiry after absolute origins and absolute finalities in order to explore specific values and the specific conditions that generate them.

 

“Darwin concluded that the impossibility of assigning the world to chance as a whole and to design in its parts indicated the insolubility of the question. Two radically different reasons may be given as to why a problem is insoluble. . . . But in anticipating the direction of the transformations in philosophy to be wrought by the Darwinian genetic and experimental logic, I do not profess to speak for any save those who yield themselves consciously. . .to this logic. No one can fairly deny that at present there are two effects of the Darwinian mode of thinking. . .that are making many sincere and vital efforts to revise our traditional philosophic conception in accordance with its demands. . .there is as definitely a recrudescence of absolutistic philosophies; an assertion of a type of philosophic knowing distinct from that of the sciences, one which opens to us another kind of reality from that to which the sciences give access; an appeal through experience to something that essentially goes beyond experience. This reaction affects popular creeds and religious movements as well as technical philosophies. The very conquest of the biological sciences by the new ideas has led many to proclaim an explicit and rigid separation of philosophy from science. . . . Doubtless the greatest dissolvent in contemporary thought of old questions, the greatest precipitant of new methods, new intentions, new problems, is the one affected by the scientific revolution that found its climax in the “Origin of Species.”    

 

Dewey is one of the originators of Pragmatism and Outcomes Based Education and Multiculturalism in education, i.e., cultural relativism.

 

(John Dewey’s book, The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy (NY: Peter Smith, 1951), pp. iii to 19). See Jim Strauss’ paper, “Whatever Happened to True Truth?”)

 

JDS