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Was Hitler a Darwinian?Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory$
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Robert J. Richards

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226058764

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226059099.001.0001

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Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and Its Moral Purpose

Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and Its Moral Purpose

(p.13) Chapter Two Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and Its Moral Purpose
Was Hitler a Darwinian?

Robert J. Richards

University of Chicago Press

Darwin constructed his conception of natural selection over a long period of time, not in the very instant when he read Malthus. Most scholars assume that Darwin formulated his principle of natural selection as a mechanical device, one that evacuated nature of moral purpose and derailed any teleological trajectory. This chapter argues, on the contrary, Darwin constructed natural selection to produce a progressive development of nature, a nature that had human beings as the goal of her strivings. This conclusion is reached by examining the language of Darwin’s theory. One appendix to this chapter shows the dependence of Darwin’s two arguments, for common descent and for natural selection, on one another; they are not logically independent, as some scholars have maintained. The second appendix explores the ontological character of Darwin’s “long argument.”

Keywords:   Darwin, logic and metaphysics of Darwin’s argument, Malthus, moral purpose of nature, natural selection, Origin of Species, progress, teleology

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