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Darwinism and Social Darwinism.docx

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Anthony Cantor

Darwinism & Social Darwinism I. Marx, Darwin & Modernity? II. “Positivism” III. Charles Darwin (1809-1882) IV. Variation & Inheritance V. Natural Selection VI. Social Darwinism & Pseudoscientific Racism I. Marx, Darwin & Modernity? -Darwin rose out of & engaged w/ the intellectual climate of modern Europe -Darwin spoke about biology, species, changes in natural world over a long period of time -Origin of Species was published in 1859, the year Marx published Critique of Political Economy, engaging w/ the same intellectual climate & same ideas about how the world works & doesn’t work -Marx believed material relations were the driving force of humanity (position in relations of production) which creates ideas (your consciousness, ideology, etc.) -Darwin, Marx, Wagner connected Darwin & Marx as part of the same cultural intellectual moment (through the idea of material forces operating mechanically; laws of nature & society are the driving forces of society that operate mechanically) Scientism -Marx & Darwin created idea of an alien, chaotic & cold world, thinking scientifically (morals, religion, art, etc. are produced by one’s place in relations of production) -emerges from legacy of Enlightenment (people were looking for laws of nature, believing there was a common origin for all organisms, directed by laws of nature; focused on empiricism, creating a climate for thinking about how species changed over time, where humans came from) & Fr. Rev. II. “Positivism” -history moves forward, human progress is inevitable & a moral & social good Positivism: the view that human progress is inevitable & linear, bringing improvements over time -post-Enlightenment, post-Fr. Rev. idea of direction & history being shapes by material forces that gives rise to Darwin -Darwin wasn’t the first to have these ideas about origins of species: -Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) (Darwin’s grandfather) had similar ideas about a common origin for species -image: Chain of Being (1579: chain of life forms from most simple to most complex) -for Marx history does have a goal; inevitable outcome of class struggle -for Darwin evolution doesn’t have a goal; not directed towards something; it occurs through things happening w/o any will/direction around them III. Charles Darwin (1809-1882) -Darwin had heard various theories about how life had developed from a common ancestor -studied medicine in Edinburgh but studied for the priesthood instead -1831: invited to set sail on the HMS Beagle, & spent 5 years on board sailing around the South American coast, began to doubt his Christian faith; he didn’t become an atheist; he became someone who thought there was a first great cause (creator) who had set the world up according to natural laws & allowed it to function -he was an enthusiastic geologist; geology argued that the natural laws of the universe could move laws, seas, continents & do great things that could affect the layout of the natural world -Darwin: explaining changes through laws of nature was better than through miracles -dominant idea in Darwin’s time was that species were stable (created in their present form) -Darwin began to doubt this stability, while noticing how birds & reptiles were distributed in the Galapagos Islands -questioned what he saw there: why are there forms that are similar to forms on the mainland, but not identical? Why are there diff. forms of birds & reptiles on diff. islands? -said that these things seen on the island were separate species but that they developed from common ancestors (to explain their similarity & diff. environments) -1837: he decided the answer to this was evolution; dissent w/ modification (from a common ancestor w/ things differing depending on environment) -he knew there was such a thing as selection (artificial selection where people could create dissent w/ modification) but in the natural world there is no breeder, so why would this happen in the natural world? Darwin’s Observations: -the Earth changes gradually -similar species replace each other geographically -similar species replace each other in time -curious case of island species -he figured out why there’d be d
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