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Initiation Into Philosophy
The Nineteenth Century: England
by Faguet, Émile

The Doctrines of Evolution and of Transformism: Lamarck (French), Darwin, Spencer.
TRANSFORMISM AND EVOLUTION.--The great philosophic invention of the English of the nineteenth century has been the idea, based on a wide knowledge of natural history, that there never was creation. The animal species had been considered by all the philosophers (except Epicurus and the Epicureans) as being created once and for all and remaining invariable. Nothing of the kind. Matter, eternally fruitful, has transformed itself first into plants, then into lower animals, then into higher animals, then into man; our ancestor is the fish; tracing back yet more remotely, our ancestor is the plant. Transformation (hence the name transformism), discrimination and separation of species, the strongest individuals of each kind alone surviving and creating descendants in their image which constitute a species; evolution (hence the name evolutionism) of living nature thus operating from the lowest types to the highest and therefore the most complicated; there is nothing but that in the world.

LAMARCK; DARWIN; SPENCER.--The Frenchman Lamarck in the eighteenth century had already conceived this idea; Darwin, purely a naturalist, set it forth clearly, Spencer again stated it and drew from it consequences of general philosophy. Thus, to Spencer, the evolutionist theory contains no immorality. On the contrary, the progressive transformation of the human species is an ascent towards morality; from egoism is born altruism because the species, seeking its best law and its best condition of happiness, perceives a greater happiness in altruism; seeking its best law and its best condition of happiness, perceives that a greater happiness lies in order, regular life, social life, etc.; so that humanity raises itself to a higher and yet higher morality by the mere fact of adapting itself better to the conditions of the life of humanity. Morality develops physiologically as the germ becomes the stem and the bud becomes the flower.

As for religion it is the domain of the unknowable. That is not to assert that it is nothing. On the contrary it is something formidable and immense. It is the feeling that something, apart from all that we know, surpasses us and that we shall never know it. Now this feeling at the same time maintains us in a humility highly favourable to the health of the soul and also in a serene confidence in the mysterious being who presides over universal evolution and who, no doubt, is the all-powerful and eternal soul of it.


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