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Pragmatism's EvolutionOrganism and Environment in American Philosophy$
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Trevor Pearce

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226719887

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226720081.001.0001

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“Hegelianism Needs to Be Darwinized”: Evolution and Idealism

“Hegelianism Needs to Be Darwinized”: Evolution and Idealism

(p.159) Four “Hegelianism Needs to Be Darwinized”: Evolution and Idealism
Pragmatism's Evolution

Trevor Pearce

University of Chicago Press

This chapter reveals the origins of the pragmatists’ dialectical account of the relationship between organism and environment. It argues that this account was produced against the background of an established connection between evolution and idealism. John Dewey, in particular, inherited his model of the organism-environment relationship from a subset of British idealist philosophers who were trying to reconcile evolutionary ideas with a critique of Herbert Spencer’s environmentalist theories of human thought and action. Idealists such as Edward Caird and Samuel Alexander insisted that adaptation or adjustment results from the reciprocal action of organism and environment: just as the environment affects the organism, the organism affects the environment. They also claimed that organism and environment are best seen as two aspects of one thing: life. Likewise, Josiah Royce and W. E. B. Du Bois saw evolution and idealism as inextricably linked. Rather than being directly inspired by the ideas of G. W. F. Hegel, as some scholars have claimed, Du Bois’s early work channeled the broader evolutionary spirit of the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   John Dewey, Josiah Royce, W. E. B. Du Bois, G. W. F. Hegel, Herbert Spencer, Edward Caird, Samuel Alexander, idealism, evolution, British Idealism

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