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The Romantic Conception of LifeScience and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe$
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Robert J. Richards

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226712109

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226712185.001.0001

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Darwin's Romantic Biology

Darwin's Romantic Biology

(p.514) Chapter 14 Darwin's Romantic Biology
The Romantic Conception of Life
University of Chicago Press

Darwin's conception of nature and man has been typically regarded as the very antithesis of the Romantic. Romantics such as Schelling and Goethe argued that the usual dualism between mind and nature was founded in a faulty metaphysics, especially of the Kantian variety. This perception of Darwin's moral theory flows from a further presumption, namely, that he eliminated from nature the kinds of values the Romantics thought secreted therein. This chapter shows how his Romantic assumptions led him to portray nature as organic, as opposed to mechanistic, and to identify God with nature, or to reanimate nature with the soul of the recently departed deity. Further, it discusses the obscure roots by which his conception of mind was nourished through the Romantic movement. Finally, it sketches the ways in which Darwin's Romantic inclinations led him to attribute to human beings a moral conscience that sought not selfish advantage but one that would respond altruistically to the needs of others.

Keywords:   romantic movement, biology, nature, Darwin

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