Evolution and Ethics

Evolution and Ethics: T.H. Huxley's Evolution and Ethics with New Essays on Its Victorian and Sociobiological Context

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 252
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    Evolution and Ethics
    Book Description:

    T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) was not only an active protagonist in the religious and scientific upheaval that followed the publication of Darwin's theory of evolution but also a harbinger of the sociobiological debates about the implications of evolution that are now going on. His seminal lecture Evolution and Ethics, reprinted here with its introductory Prolegomena, argues that the human psyche is at war with itself, that humans are alienated in a cosmos that has no special reference to their needs, and that moral societies are of necessity in conflict with the natural conditions of their existence. Seen in the light of current understanding of the mechanisms of evolution, these claims remain as controversial today as they were when Huxley proposed them. In this volume George Williams, one of the best-known evolutionary biologists of our time, asserts that recent biological ideas and data justify a more extreme condemnation of the "cosmic process" than Huxley advocated and more extreme denial that the forces that got us here are capable of maintaining a viable world. James Paradis, an expert in Victorian studies, has written an introduction that sets the celebrated lecture in the context of cultural history, revealing it to be an impressive synthesis of Victorian thinking, as well as a challenge to eighteenth-century assumptions about the harmony of of nature. With Huxley's lecture as a focal point, the three parts of this book unite philosophy and science in a shared quest that recalls their common origins as systems of knowledge.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6030-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Evolution and Ethics in Its Victorian Context
    (pp. 3-56)

    In the summer of 1892, three years before his death, an ailing T. H. Huxley wrote the celebrated lecture “Evolution and Ethics,” which he delivered at Oxford University the afternoon of May 18, 1893. The lecture, together with the “Prolegomena,” an introductory essay completed in June of 1894, set traditional humanistic values in direct conflict with the physical realities revealed by nineteenth-century science. The forces of nature, seen by Huxley in terms of powerful material and instinctual laws, were poised, he now argued, against civilization and the future of humanity.

    Huxley built his two essays on a domestic foundation, using...

    (pp. 57-178)

    It may be safely assumed that, two thousand years ago, before Caesar set foot in southern Britain, the whole country-side visible from the windows of the room in which I write, was in what is called “the state of nature.” Except, it may be, by raising a few sepulchral mounds, such as those which still, here and there, break the flowing contours of the downs, man’s hands had made no mark upon it; and the thin veil of vegetation which overspread the broad-backed heights and the shelving sides of the coombs was unaffected by his industry. The native grasses and...

  6. A Sociobiological Expansion of Evolution and Ethics
    (pp. 179-214)

    Huxley wrote almost a century ago, and since his time there has been a great advance in our understanding of the process of organic evolution and a great increase in our fund of knowledge about its products. My purpose here is to review those aspects of current theoretical understanding and biological knowledge that bear most forcefully on the main theme of Huxley’s essay, his moral evaluation of nature. The theoretical specifics will no doubt prove temporary. Graphical and symbolic models of sexual selection, for example, will be quite different in a few decades from any in use today. I expect...

  7. Appendix: The History of Evolution and Ethics
    (pp. 215-220)
  8. Bibliography I: The Victorian Context
    (pp. 221-227)
  9. Bibliography II: A Sociobiological Expansion
    (pp. 228-236)
  10. Index
    (pp. 237-242)