From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again : A Journey in Final Causality, Species, and Evolution
The great philosopher and historian of philosophy, Etienne Gilson, sets out to show that final causality or purposiveness and formal causality are principles for those who think hard and carefully about the world, including the world of biology. Gilson insists that a completely rational understanding of organisms and biological systems requires the philosophical notion of teleology, the idea that certain kinds of things exist and have ends or purposes the fulfillment of which are linked to their natures-in other words, formal and final causes. His approach relies on philosophical reflection on the facts of science, not upon theology or an appeal to religious authorities such as the Church or the Bible.
- Hardback | 230 pages
- 152.4 x 228.6 x 17.53mm | 508.02g
- 16 Mar 1984
- University of Notre Dame Press
- Notre Dame IN, United States
"The work goes to the heart of the clash between the Aristotelian and Darwinian explanations of design in nature. Gilson sees his first task as philosopher to distinguish philosophical from scientific and theological issues. Leaving aside scientific and theological questions, he concentrates on articulating a concern so many have had with evolutionary theory: finding it incredible that natural forces, themselves without intrinsic direction, could by natural selection alone create the order so manifest in organic nature. Gilson is at home with Aristotle's thought. Concerning evolutionary theory and its history he depends heavily on sources in the French tradition, which, it should be noted, remains . . . to this day largely antithetic toward Darwinian evolutionary theory. Though he does not pretend to an extensive knowledge of biology, he has read Darwin closely and perceptively. There are a number of discussions that will interest Darwin scholars. Gilson proposes, for example, the interesting thesis that Spencer's evolutionary philosophy has become subtly incorporated into Darwin's purportedly scientific theory. The translation is meticulous, even correcting quotations against original sources and noting corrections. Though evolutionists will view Gilson as failing to understand properly the process of natural selection, some of the conceptual problems he raises are relevant to contemporary controversies in evolutionary theory itself. -Choice * Choice *
About Etienne Gilson
Etienne Gilson was born in Paris in 1884. He became Professor of Medieval Philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1921, and from 1932 until his retirement in 1951 he held a similar chair at the College de France. From 1929 until his death in 1978 he was associated with the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. John Lyon is emeritus professor of liberal studies at the University of Notre Dame.