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Worlds Before AdamThe Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform$
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Martin J. S. Rudwick

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226731285

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226731308.001.0001

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The role of actual causes (1818–24)

The role of actual causes (1818–24)

(p.89) Chapter 7 The role of actual causes (1818–24)
Worlds Before Adam
University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers the proper role of observable present processes as means of explaining the deep past of geohistory. The actualistic method of using the present as the most effective key to the deep past was taken for granted by all savants concerned with the newly historical science of geology, but Cuvier had famously claimed that the policy had limitations, because actual causes were inadequate to explain the earth's major “revolutions.” The work of Karl Ernst Adolf von Hoff is discussed, who showed that although the recorded effects of actual causes such as erosion and sedimentation, volcanic and seismic action, were relatively modest on a global scale, their cumulative effects could have been substantial over the far greater spans of deep time which all geologists took for granted in geohistory.

Keywords:   present, past, geohistory, geology, Karl von Hoff

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