Conversations of the West: 19th Century - Assignment Example

Charles Darwin threw a wrench into the belief system when he published On the Origin of Species. This book revolutionized the way we see our origins, and spurred a type of radical thought about evolution. Darwin’s theory of natural selection explained that evolution is not fixed and that there are no predefined endings. His theories were the first of their kind. Numerous works before Darwin have encompassed some aspect of what traditionalists call “metaphysics. ” Metaphysics, defined in a philosophical sense, is the science of being and knowing absolutely. In other words, the means are steps to the pre-existing end.

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Karl Marx clearly defines his pre-existing end of history in The Communist Manifesto, and The Book of Genesis, although not philosophic, was one of the first works to communicate certain metaphysical elements concerning creation. When comparing the metaphysical thought to Darwin’s The Origin of Species thought, we see many opposing factions, but at the same time, many similarities. Thus, Darwin does not destroy metaphysical thinking altogether. Even today, evolution serves as a strong political topic because the absolute and entire understanding of evolution is still up in the air.

Natural selection is Darwin’s key concept in explaining his theory of evolution. Darwin examines the distinction between species and variations. He states that organism’s traits vary from parent to offspring. This process he labels “individualism. ” Some variations may confer no advantages, while other differences may hold positive or negative attributes. If a variation makes the offspring better suited to survive or to successfully reproduce, then that offspring and its descendants will be more likely to survive than those offspring without the variation or disibility. The process of natural selection brings about the evolution of species.

Organisms reproduce and create offspring that differ in traits. If the enviroment that they live in cannot support all members of the growing population, then those members with “less adaptive traits” will die off while the individuals with more adaptive traits will live on. This explains Darwin’s “Survivial of the fittest” as only the best suited, and more adapt organizisms will live on. Metaphysics on the other hand concentrates on the overall principle of being. The end is already created and the beginning is absolute. Meta means end, and any phenomenon that cannot serve as a means to an end does not revolve around the metaphysical world.

It takes on a type of “Parmenidean” viewpoint in that it has some element of permanence and a type of unchanging world. If something does change then it is considered an illusion that needs to be overcome. There are absolutely no events or occurrences and there is a total disregard of time. Strictly speaking, only philosophical systems are metaphysical. Darwin’s theory of evolution seems to oppose metaphysics in many ways. Darwin clearly defines his theory of evolution as being one without any fixations and without any predetermined endings.

This theory is the exact opposite of metaphysics, as metaphysics tries to convey a type of preexisting end. However, Darwin also has some things in common with the “principle of being. ” Darwin’s origin of evolution in a way takes on a metaphysical element when he talks about his “great tree of life. ” This tree of life represents all organisms ever created. “As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds… the Tree of Life… covers the surface [of the earth] with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications”(135). All organisms on this tree are interconnected to the main trunk of the tree.

And this main trunk represents the first organism on earth. Thus Darwin states we are all created from one pre-existing life form. From the beginning of life, we already have a pre-defined origionator in which we all are created from that very first organism. Although only philosophical systems are metaphysical, Genesis is one example that encompasses metaphysical elements. Genesis reveals that God created all kinds of organisms and their variations (Genesis 1:21). This passage means that God created all the species and all of their subspecies. God’s world is a metaphysical world where creation is already “being” and unchanging.

It’s a world where generations are already fixed by the powers of God. Another metaphysical aspect seen in Genesis was the fall of the Garden of Eden. When God first created the Garden of Eden, it was a perfect and stable environment. However, the Garden of Eden experienced a type of “fall” as God was betrayed when Eve ate from the tree of knowledge. Like all metaphysical worlds, there is the chance that fallen worlds can somehow recover and return to its original state. This was seen with the idealistic creation of Heaven. Darwin’s theory goes against the traditional metaphysical account seen in Genesis in many ways.

Darwin explained evolution is not fixed and that there are no predefined endings. However, Genesis reveals that God created all the kinds and their variations (Genesis 1:21). What is odd about this interpretation is that species and their subspecies must be fixed and unchanging. There can be no variation from the outside environment. If this was true then animals could not adapt to their surroundings if the atmosphere changed, which as Darwin puts it, would cause extinction for many species. Another difference is that in Genesis, animals were created so that man may dominate over them, which implies that man is a semi-God.

However in Darwin, animals evolved from same single celled organisms as humans, thus man is nothing special as he is one of many organisms. However, both Darwin and Genesis have a type of Metaphysical element in terms of creation. Darwin has absolutely no explanation for the origin of life. Thus Darwin assumes creation and beginning of existence as an absolute fact, a type of being. This takes on a metaphysical element. While in Genesis, it was said that God created all animals and predetermined their variations. There are absolutely no events or occurrences that have not already been created in Genesis.

Marx took on a metaphysical viewpoint when he created his theory on history. In his Communist Manifesto, Marx considered that history could be thought of in terms of class struggles. This class struggle was between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In order for the proletariat to be able to be oppressed, however, its existence must be held firmly. However, people in the industrial society were continually suffering a decline as they were becoming poorer and poorer. The bourgeoisie were thus unfit to rule, because they could not guarantee “an existence to its slave within its slavery. With the development of Modern Industry, the bourgeoisie produces “its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable. ”

Marx believed that evolution of history would end when mankind had achieved a form of society that satisfied its deepest longings. Marx defined this “end of history” as a communist society. When Marx states that communism will lead to the “end of history” he is stating that there would be no longer any future progress in the development of society: When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character… have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class. ” When the proletariats eliminate the old conditions for production, they will render class opposition impossible, and thereby eliminate their own class supremacy.

Bourgeois society will be replaced by an “association” in which “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. ” Marx can be viewed as a metaphysical philosopher as he has a defined end to history. He viewed history in terms of class struggles and change. Marx’s historical process takes on a “Heraclitean” outlook as history is filled with nothing but change. However, Marx is able to come to the conclusion that evolution of history would end when mankind had achieved a form of society that satisfied its deepest longings and this longing is a communistic society.

This would symbolize the end of history because there would no longer be any more classes to revolt against each other. Communism sweeps “away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms” and generalizes a common state class. Marx’s end of history takes on a “Parmenidean” viewpoint as history does not evolve anymore! Marx and the Communist Manifesto was obviously more metaphysical then Darwin’s Natural selection as Marx clearly had an end to history. Marx noted that the evolution of classes will eventually become one as a state while Darwin theorized that species will continue to evolve into different species.

However, Darwin too experiences both “Parmenidean” and “Heraclitean” discourses concerning his theories. Darwin’s states that evolution will never be still, which takes on a “Heraclitean” point of view. However, organisms strive for perfect traits that will allow them to have a competitive advantage over other species: “And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection” (174). Thus each organism in society works towards a characteristic of the body that is perfect.

If a variation makes the offspring better suited to survive or to successfully reproduce then that offspring and its descendants will be more likely to survive than those offspring without the perfect variation. This strive for “perfect traits” can be seen as a “Parmenidean” discourse. Though Darwin provides an excellent base for the debate about origins, it is still not complete. Evolution can still be seen as either fixed or unfixed depending on one’s own interpretation. The history of origins is nowhere near being finished.

There are still some areas of Darwin’s work that are fully undeveloped. For instance, the fossil record does not account for discontinuities at the Class level. By falling into complete agreement with Darwin, some of our history will remain a mystery. We must continue to look into evolution and our origins. Traditionalists must be wary of doing the same, but with complete faith to the words within Genesis. The interpretation of Genesis has some flaws in it, thus it cannot be given complete trust.

As we move further into this new millennium, we must not accept everything that we have already learned. We must try to probe deeper into the idea of our origins, while keeping our assumptions of Darwin and metaphysics contained. As both ideas have their faults, we must use this as our motivation to continue our studies. By continuing with our research, we will hopefully, one day, come to the final and complete explanation that will give us the entire history of the origin of species.