From Darwinian Metaphysics Towards Understanding the Evolution of Evolutionary Mechanisms
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From Darwinian Metaphysics Towards Understanding the Evolution of Evolutionary Mechanisms

By Momme von Sydow
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Book Description

Although Charles Darwin predicted that his theory “would give zest to [...] metaphysics,” even he would be astonished at the variety of paths his theory has in fact taken. This holds with regard to both gene-Darwinism, a purified Darwinian approach biologizing the social sciences, and process- Darwinism found in the disciplines of psychology, philosophy of science, and economics. Although Darwinism is often linked to highly confirmed biological theories, some of its interpretations seem to profit from tautological claims as well, where scientific reputation cloaks ideological usage. This book discusses central tenets of Darwinism historically as well as systematically, for example the history of different Darwinian paradigms, the units-of-selection debate, and the philosophical problem of induction as basis of metaphysical Darwinism. Crucially the book addresses the Darwinian claim that evolution is governed by an immutable and unrelentingly cruel law of natural selection. Paradoxically, Darwin’s theory is a static, non-evolutionary theory of evolution. The current book sketches the historical background and provides suggestions that may help to replace this approach by the idea of an evolution of evolutionary mechanisms (see Escher’s “Drawing Hands” on the cover). This view even suggests a tendency to overcome the blindness of the knowledge acquisition of primordial Darwinian processes and allows for some freedom from external environments. This book first develops a radically Darwinian approach, then criticises this approach from within. Even Darwinism has a tendency to transcend itself. Although the book addresses several empirical issues, it does not challenge particular findings. Instead it builds on many insights of Darwinism and provides a proposal for interpreting known empirical evidence in a different light. It should help pave the way for further developing an understanding of nature that transcends Darwinian metaphysics.

Table of Contents
  • Momme von Sydow: From Darwinian metaphysics towards understanding the evolution of evolutionary mechanisms
    • Preface
    • Acknowledgments
    • Table of Contents
    • Introduction: Nature of Philosophy and Philosophy of Nature
      • The Nature of Philosophy and Its Relation to Science
        • a) Metaphysics as an Essential Task of Philosophy
        • b) Metaphysics Entrenched in Science
        • c) Science as Philosophy and Art
        • d) The Dialogue Between Philosophy and Science
      • The Philosophy of Nature – Universal Darwinism and Its Transcendence
        • a) The Glory and Poverty of Gene-Darwinism – The Need for a Third Way
        • b) A Strict Definition of Darwinism and Process-Darwinism
        • c) From Darwinism to an Evolutionary Theory of Evolution
        • d) The Philosophy of Nature after Times of Ecological and Economic Crisis
        • e) Darwinism, Religion and Philosophy
      • One Long Argument – Outline of the Book
    • Part I: Sociobiology and Its Ethical Implications – The Cause of this Investigation
      • Chapter 1: Sociobiology as Discipline and Paradigm
        • 1.1 Two Basic Postulates
          • a) The Postulate of ‘Selfish’ Genes as the Only Units of Evolution
          • b) The Postulate of Genic or Biological Determinism
        • 1.2 The Main Theories of the Evolution of Apparent Altruism – Sociobiological Theorems?
          • a) The Theory of Kin Selection
          • b) The Theory of Reciprocal ‘Altruism’
      • Chapter 2: Ethical Implications – The Morality of the Gene?
        • 2.1 Biology and Ethics: Different but Not Unrelated
        • 2.2 Philosophical Reactions and Some Accounts of a ‘Sociobiological Ethics’
        • 2.3 The Moral of the Gene? – ‘The Currency Used in the Casino of Evolution Is Survival’
        • 2.4 Meme ‘Altruisms’? – A Further Extension of the Sociobiological Paradigm
          • a) Memes – A Limited Comeback of the Idea of Logos
          • b) Problems of the Extended Genetic-Memetic Approach as a Basis for Ethics
        • 2.5 The Need for a New Paradigm in Biology
    • Part II: The Unfolding of Logos in Regard to the Conceptions of ‘Physis’ and Darwinism
      • Chapter 3: The Unfolding of the Pre-Darwinian Philosphical Conceptions of Nature
        • 3.1 The Ancient Views of φύσις – Nature as Organism
          • a) From Myth to the Pre-Socratics – The Development of Basic Notions
          • b) Platonism – Physis as ‘Techne’
          • c) Aristotelianism – Physis as ‘Autopoiesis’
        • 3.2 Medieval Philosophy – The Divine De-enchantment of Nature
          • a) The World as ‘Machina Mundi’
          • b) The Human as ‘Alter Deus’
          • c) Universalia – From Realism to Nominalism
        • 3.3 Modern Philosophy – Nature as Clockwork; Creator as Watchmaker
          • a) The Rise of Science – The Alter Deus Explores the Clockwork of God: Copernicus, Bacon, Newton
          • b) Humanism – The Alter Deus Replaces the Christian Deus
          • c) Descartes and Kant – Dualism of Human Freedom and the Clockwork of Nature
          • d) Idealism and Romanticism – The Dynamic Trial of a Unification
            • (i) ‘Naturphilosophie’ and Idealism
            • (ii) Unity, Dynamism and Organicism
            • (iii) The Breakdown of Romantic Science
        • 3.4 The Rise of Biology as Science – Torn between Eternal Form and Evolution
          • a) Hierarchical Taxonomy instead of ‘Scala Naturae’ – Linnaeus
          • b) Romanticising Materialistic Biology – Buffon, Lamarck
          • c) Transcendental and Essentialist Biology – Cuvier, (early) Owen, Agassiz
          • d) Romantic Biology – Oken, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, (late) Owen
          • e) Conclusion: Overview of the Preceding Three Schools
      • Chapter 4: The Internal Logic of Evolutionary Theories – From Darwin to Dawkins
        • 4.1 From Darwin to Weismann – The Birth of Darwinism
          • a) Darwin – Not a Darwinist in the Strict Sense
          • c) Darwin’s Descent of Man – Social Darwinism?
            • (i) Ambivalence about the Universality of Natural Selection
            • (ii) Explaining Man, Culture and Ethics?
          • d) Neo-Darwinism: Weismann Turns Darwin’s Theory into ‘Darwinism’
        • 4.2 Darwinism on Its Deathbed
        • 4.3 Evolutionary Synthesis
          • a) First Phase – Synthesis of Genetics and Population Statistics
          • b) Second Phase – Population Structure and Macroscopic Mechanisms
          • c) Evolutionary Factors and the Importance of Populations
          • d) Disengagement from Ideological Programmes?
        • 4.4 ‘Sociobiology’ as Gene-Darwinism – A New Synthesis?
          • a) Germ-Line Reductionism
          • b) Gene-Atomism
          • c) Darwinian Process Monism
        • 4.5 Criticism – A Better Synthesis in Sight?
          • a) New Views in Micro- and Macrobiology
          • b) A Multilevel Synthesis – Darwinism versus Developmentalism?
            • (i) Multi-Level-Darwinism
            • (ii) Multi-Level-Evolutionism: Developmental Approaches and Selforganisational Approaches
      • Chapter 5: The External History of Darwinism – From Whig Biology to Neo-Liberal Biology?
        • 5.1 Darwin – A Malthusian Synthesis of Romantic and Newtonian Thought
          • a) Romanticism and Romanticising Materialism
          • b) The Impact of Newtonism – Darwin’s Process-Monism
          • c) Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith – The Influence of Economic Thought and Practice
          • d) God – A Blind and Brute Creator?
        • 5.2 Evolutionary Synthesis – Thermodynamics and the Philosophical Zeitgeist
          • a) The Influence of Thermodynamics
          • b) The Impact of the Philosophical Zeitgeist and the Development of Logical Positivism and Logical Atomism?
            • (i.) Philosophy at the Time of the Eclipse of Darwinism
            • (ii) Parallels of Logical Atomism and Logical Positivism to Fisherism?
            • (iii) Contextual Turns in Philosophy and Biology
        • 5.3 Gene-Darwinism – Reductionism Generalised
          • a) The Different Biological Legacies of the Schools of Evolutionary Biology
          • b) A Misled Neo-Romantic Aspiration for Unification and Interdisciplinarity
          • c) ‘Naturalistic Turn’ – Reductionism and Materialism in Philosophy
          • d) ‘Import’ of Economical Concepts – Gene-Capitalism?
        • 5.4 Summary: Biology as ‘Geisteswissenschaft’?
    • Part III: Universal Darwinism
      • Chapter 6: Darwinian Metaphysics – Biologistic and Process-Darwinism
        • 6.1 The Problem of Induction – The Necessity of Blind Variation and External Elimination?
          • a) Darwinism Seen as Universal Principle
          • b) The Problem of Induction (Hume and Popper)
          • c) Toward a Critique of a Falsificationist Necessity of Universal Darwinism
        • 6.2 Biologistic Darwinism – Gene-Darwinism as Prototype
        • 6.3 Universal Process-Darwinism – A New Alkahest
      • Chapter 7: Process-Darwinism in Particular Subject Areas
        • 7.1 Darwinian Epistemologies and Darwinian Philosophies of Science
          • a) Darwinian Biological Epistemology and Darwinian Process Epistemology
          • b) Operant Conditioning – Learning as Darwinian Process?
          • c) Popper’s Falsificationism – Science as Darwinian Process?
        • 7.2 Other Components of Process-Darwinism
          • a) Antibodies and Neurones
          • b) Darwinian Economics?
      • Conclusion – The Universal War of Entities
    • Part IV: Transcendence of Gene-Darwinism and Universal Process-Darwinism
      • Chapter 8: Transcendence of Substance-Reductionism
        • 8.1 Problems of Physicalism and Reductionism in General
          • a) The Difference between Explanation and (Downward) Reduction
          • b) Problems of Modern Physicalism with Traditional Materialism
          • c) Logical Problems of the Modern Understanding of Substance – Is a Tree a Million Matches?
          • d) The Inconsistency between Biologism and Physicalism – Genes or Information versus Quarks?
        • 8.2 Genetic Reductionism I: Gene-Atomistic Reductionism and Its Transcendence
          • a) Gene-Atomism – Empty or Wrong Claim?
          • b) Higher Genetic Units – Despite the Meiotic Shuffle
            • (i) The General Possibility of Emergent Higher Genic Units
            • (ii) Higher Genic Units Despite the Meiotic Shuffle
          • c) Top-Down Causation and Higher-Level Genes at Different Loci
            • (i) The Relationship of Higher-Level Genes and Downward Causation
            • (ii) The Stability of Higher-Level Genes on Different Loci
          • d) The Fallacy of Claiming Gene-Atomism Tautologically
            • (i) The Testable Claim of Gene-Atomism
            • (ii) The Tautological Claim of Gene-Atomism
          • e) Higher-Level Properties of Different Organisms – Four Possibilities for Achieving the Good of the Group
            • (i) Wholes in the Individual and the Many – Loci and Alleles
            • (ii) Four Possibilities for Achieving the Good of the Group
          • f) Stable Synergetic Properties and Selection above Groups – Species and Ecosystems
            • (i) Species
            • (ii) Ecosystems
        • 8.3 Genetic Reductionism II: Germ-Line Reductionism and Its Transcendence
          • a) Germ-Line Reductionism – The Strong Interpretation of the Weismann Barrier
            • (i) Different Interpretations of the Central Dogma
            • (ii) Violations of the Weismannian Dogma?
            • (iii) The Central Dogma as Only Partial Description of the Relationships between Genotype and Phenotype
          • b) Information, Exformation and Phenotype as Evolutionary Factors
            • (i) The General Concept of Exformation
            • (ii) Exformation and the Stuffness of the Phenotype
            • (iii) Phenotype Interpreting Genotype
            • (iv) Stuffness and Inner Dynamics of the Phenotype
            • (v) Phenotype as Evolutionary Factor in Its Own Right
          • c) Forms, Fields and the Concept of External Memory
            • (i) Environmental Forms and Fields
            • (ii) External Memory
          • d) A Partial Revival of Morphological Taxonomy?
            • (i) The Evolutionary Factor of Constraints as Object of Taxonomy
            • (ii) Morphological Resonance as Object of Taxonomy
          • e) Summary
      • Chapter 9: Transcendence of Process-Reductionism
        • 9.1 Inconsistencies and Tautologies of a Darwinian Mono-Mechanistic Metaphysic
          • a) Inconsistencies of Different Levels of Multilevel Darwinism
          • b) On the Tautological Basis of Pan-Adaptationism
          • c) On the Tautological Basis of Pan-Selectionism
        • 9.2 Re-defining the Notions of Darwinism and Lamarckism
          • a) A Strict Definition of Darwinism
          • b) A Spectrum between Darwinism and Lamarckism
        • 9.3 Toward Radical Evolutionism – The Evolution of Evolutionary Mechanisms
          • a) Synthesis versus Pure Diversification of Information – Discussion of the First Criterion for a Darwinian Process
          • b) Directed Variation versus Blind Variation – Discussion of the Second Criterion
            • (i) Not Blind by Definition
            • (ii) Different Types of Variation
            • (iii) Is There Adaptive Variation?
            • (iv) Adaptive Variation as Reaction to the Environment?
            • (v) Summary and Conclusion
          • c) From Hetero-Selection to Auto-Selection – Discussion of the Third Criterion
            • (i) Darwinian Externalism
            • (ii) Opportunistic Response to the Moment?
            • (iii) Auto-Selection and Autonomy
          • d) The Evolution of Evolutionary Mechanisms
            • (i) The Necessary Concept of an Evolution of Evolutionary Mechanisms
            • (ii) Process-Emergence, Circularity and Autonomy
        • 9.4 Summary of the Chapter on Process-Reductionism
      • Chapter 10: Towards the Transcendence of Selfishness
      • Summary and Outlook – Towards Ecological Idealism
        • Beyond the Two Cultures?
        • Summary
        • An Outlook – Towards Ecological Idealism
    • Bibliography
    • Index
    • Backcover
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