History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Kant’s Challenge, and a challenge to Kant

December 20th, 2006 · No Comments

A post at kant@yahoogroups.com dealing with the issue of Allen Wood’s discussion of natural teleology and unsocial sociability.

It’s time I wrote my own webpage discussing Wood’s treatment of Kant on history, and his claims for ‘natural teleology’, and the confusion over ‘unsocial sociability’, now compounded in a few recent posts by the attempt to Darwinize Kant with this notion.
The idea of unsocial sociability is a trial notion in Kant’s essay on history, and that essay, as I have indicated in World History and The Eonic Effect (The Kant’s Challenge, and Kant’s Question pages), is really asking a question.

Since people tend to cling to the claims for unsocial sociability, now made more confusing by its association with Darwin, it would be appropriate to ask those who think that way to show a derivation of this collation of ideas, especially since Kant lived quite a bit before Darwin, and also most definitely had ideas about teleology that Darwinists would reject, along with Kant.
I fear this is a cowardly or deluded effort to survive in peace in a Darwin dominated culture where the ‘heresies’ of Kant mark him down for rejection as superceded, which he is certainly not. Kant gave birth, for example, to the teleomechanists, and their approach to biology in the period before Darwin showed great promise for setting biology on a firm footing. To be amnesiac about that and collate Kant and Darwin on the basis of ‘unsocial sociability’ is outrageous, and a reminder that I must be wary of ‘Kant scholars’ and the deception they will evidently perform here.

This new dogma about unsocial sociability is undoubtedly Kant’s fault in the sense that he equivocated about the nature of his thinking about history and teleology. As he indicated, the question had to be answered in the future. And already in light of the material on the eonic effect the nature of his brilliant though flawed reasoning is becoming clear: we have the data and evidence to actually redo his conception of ‘natural teleology’ in a different and new way.

I should say that I am not a Kantian or Kant expositor, but an independent student of the philosophy of history who has found the rubric of Kant’s critiques immensely helpful to lay a foundation for historical analysis. Unfortunately, any critique of Kant is subject to total rejection by dogmatists.

In any case, here is a proper challenge: show in detail the derivation of unsocial sociability as the ‘driver’ for some ‘idea’ of universal history, and then show in detail the relation of history to evolution, with a clear and rigorous derivation of the connection of unsocial sociability and natural selection.

If you do that you will rapidly discover that unsocial sociability is no more able than natural selection to explain the issues.
Anyway, I think Kant needs to be rescued from misuse here. Making him out to be a Darwinist could actually succeed in this environment of contentious and loudmouthed Darwin debaters out to outshout the opposition, and ignore Kant’s real thinking here.
I think we should be clear that Kant’s fascinating thinking about history was exploratory, deals with ‘ideas of reason’ as to history, but that this is not part of the critical system.

This snafu is a pity, and it may be necessary to simply abandon Kant and proceed with a new revision of his basic critique. There, despite the flaws there also, Schopenhauer shows one way to a streamlined framework to make Kant’s thinking on history a little clearer. One could found such an enterprise mostly definitely in a Kantian context, yet create an environment where innovation is possible. Bypassing Hegel’s confusions, and some of Schopenhauer’s, one could always then take the result and backtrack it to a full Kantian version (I think Schopenhauer is not always adequate on Kant, but he can Xray the critical system better than most, unfortunately by excising excessively much of the best Kant). These remarks aren’t quite clear, but the point is that errors in a thinker as brilliant as Kant are hard to correct and leave someone in my position stranded incommunicado.
It is partly my fault, and I might be better off without Kant here, save that one must critique this dangerous and erroneously thinking about unsocial sociability.

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