1902 Encyclopedia > Evolution > Evolution in Philosophy: English, French and Italian Writers of Early 19th Century.

(Part 20)


Early Half of the Century—English Writers.—We may here conveniently break off our review of German evolutionists, returning to the writers of the latter part of the century presently. The thinkers outside Germany who in the first half of the century contributed elements to the growth of the idea of evolution are too unimportant to detain us here. In the English philosophy of this period questions of cosmology play a very inconsiderable part. The development of the analytical psychology, especially by the two Mills may be referred to. Also an allusion may be made to the discussions respecting the nature of cause. Among these Sir W. Hamilton’s definition of cause (Lectures on Metaphysics, ii. 377) is specially interesting as appearing to tell against the production of mind out of matter.

French Writers—Comte.—In France during this period the name of Auguste Comte is the only one that need arrest our attention. Comte’s principles of positivism, which restricted all inquiry to phenomena and their laws are said by his recent disciples to exclude all consideration of the ultimate origin of the universe, as well as of organic life. Yet though Comte did not contribute to a theory of cosmic organic evolution, be helped to lay the foundation of a scientific conception of human history as a natural process of developed determined by general laws of human nature together with the accumulating influences of the past. Comte does not recognize that this process is aided by any increase of innate capacity ; on the contrary, progress is to him the unfolding of fundamental faculties of human nature which always pre-existed in a latent condition ; yet he may perhaps be said to have prepared the way for the new conception of human progress by his inclusion of mental laws under biology.

Italian Writers.—In Italy during this period there meet us one or two thinkers who concern themselves with follows Campanella in endowing chemical atoms with sensibility and life, and he bases the hierarchy of beings in the same time he follows Bruno in speaking of the totality of the world as an organism endowed with a soul which individualized itself in the innumerable existence of the universe. Spontaneous generation is to Rosmini a necessary consequence of his theory of a universal life. Other Italian writers adopt Hegel’s notion of the world as a self-evolution of the idea. Of these it is enough to mention Terensio Mamiani, who gives an optimistic turn to his conception of evolution by viewing it as a progressive union of the finite with the infinite. Mamiani argues against Darwin, and hold that all specific forms are fixed for all time.

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