Advertisement

The Same and Different: Early Theories of Evolution

  • Lucas John Mix
Chapter

Abstract

In the eighteenth century, evolution began to fill the gap left by vegetable souls. The first broadly evolutionary theories reimagined the ladder of nature, turning an eternal movement into a process in history. Thus, early theories were progressive and only roughly mechanical. Locke and Comte blazed a trail with reforms in epistemology, Buffon, Lamarck, and Erasmus Darwin experimented with progressive concepts of evolution. Four key developments set the groundwork for evolution by natural selection: a distinction between bodies and persons, a permissive view of mechanical explanations, a reintegration of vegetable and animal life, and an acceptance that species can change with time. Nutrition and reproduction remained the most important activities for understanding life.

References

  1. Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc. “Barr’s Buffon.” In Buffon’s Natural History, Containing a Theory of the Earth, a General History of Man, of the Brute Creation, and of Vegetables, Minerals, Etc. From the French, 10 vol., translated by J. S. Barr. London: H.D. Symonds, 1797.Google Scholar
  2. Comte, Auguste. The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, 2 vols. Translated by Harriet Marineau. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  3. Darwin, Erasmus. Zoonomia; Or the Laws of Organic Life, vol. 1, 2nd ed. London: J. Johnson, 1796.Google Scholar
  4. Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste. Zoological Philosophy: An Exposition with Regard to the Natural History of Animals. Translated by Hugh Elliot. London: Macmillan, 1914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Locke, John. The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, 12th ed. London: Rivington, 1824.Google Scholar
  6. Ruse, Michael. Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  7. Sloan, Phillip. “The Concept of Evolution to 1872.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring 2017 ed. Stanford University, 1997–. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2017/entries/evolution-to-1872/.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucas John Mix
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations