Immanuel Kant and Evolution ("creation or rather development")

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Wolfgang G. Gasser

Sep 14, 2007, 12:09:37 PM9/14/07
Interesting quote from 'Evolutionary Theory and Kant's Critique' [1]:

"The theory of the descent of the species is fully developed (in the
Critique of Judgment), even including, as an explanation for the
current fixity of the species, a theory of the former, now extinct,
fertility of the productive force, such as Georges Cuvier was to
advocate subsequently. Nineteenth-century theories of evolution,
especially Darwin's, added factual details to Kant's theory and
improved it by removing many objective difficulties, but they changed
nothing in the basic framework. On the other hand, compared to Kant's
theory, the theories of the nineteenth century actually represent a
huge step backward on account of the decline of theoretical culture
and the consequent naiveté with which relatively insignificant details
are considered important and lauded as progress in treating the
question, while the crucial speculative-theoretical basic questions
are overlooked."

Inspired by Buffon (1707-1788), Kant wrote [2], [3]:

"Perhaps a succession of millions of years or centuries has passed
before the sphere of the developed nature in which we find ourselves
grew to the perfection inherent in it [*]. And perhaps an even longer
period will elapse before nature will take such a wide step into
chaos: yet the sphere of the developed nature is ceaselessly occupied
with expanding itself.

Creation is not the work of a moment. After creation made a beginning
by producing an infinity of substances and materials, it is efficacious
with constantly increasing degrees of fecundity throughout the total
succession of eternity."

Many years later Kant wrote [4]:

"It is praiseworthy by the aid of comparative anatomy to go through the
great creation of organised natures, in order to see whether there may
not be in it something similar to a system and also in accordance with
the principle of production. [...]

The agreement of so many genera of animals in a certain common schema,
which appears to be fundamental not only in the structure of their
bones but also in the disposition of their remaining parts, -— so that
with an admirable simplicity of original outline, a great variety of
species has been produced by the shortening of one member and the
lengthening of another, the involution of this part and the evolution
of that, -— allows a ray of hope, however faint, to penetrate into
our minds, that here something may be accomplished by the aid of the
principle of the mechanism of nature (without which there can be no
natural science in general).

This analogy of forms, which with all their differences seem to have
been produced according to a common original type, strengthens our
suspicions of an actual relationship between them in their production
from a common parent, through the gradual approximation of one animal-
genus to another —- from those in which the principle of purposes
seems to be best authenticated, i.e. from man, down to the polype,
and again from this down to mosses and lichens, and finally to the
lowest stage of nature noticeable by us, viz. to crude matter.

And so the whole Technic of nature, which is so incomprehensible to
us in organised beings that we believe ourselves compelled to think
a different principle for it, seems to be derived from matter and its
powers according to mechanical laws (like those by which it works in
the formation of crystals).

Here it is permissible for the archaeologist of nature to derive from
the surviving traces of its oldest revolutions [...] that great family
of creatures [...]. He can suppose the bosom of mother earth, as she
passed out of her chaotic state (like a great animal), to have given
birth in the beginning to creatures of less purposive form, that
these again gave birth to others which formed themselves with greater
adaptation to their place of birth and their relations to each other;

We may call a hypothesis of this kind a daring venture of reason, and
there may be few even of the most acute naturalists through whose head
it has not sometimes passed. For it is not absurd, like that generatio
aequivoca by which is understood the production of an organised being
through the mechanics of crude unorganised matter.

It would always remain generatio univoca in the most universal sense
of the word, for it only considers one organic being as derived from
another organic being, although from one which is specifically
different; e.g. certain water-animals transform themselves gradually
into marsh-animals and from these, after some generations, into land-

A priori, in the judgement of Reason alone, there is no contradiction
here. Only experience gives no example of it; according to experience
all generation that we know is generatio homonyma."

Cheers, Wolfgang

Pandualist evolution (in the tradition of Cusa, Kepler, Spinoza & Kant):

[*] "Perhaps a succession of millions of years and centuries is to flow
by before the sphere of developed nature in which we find ourselves
grows to the perfection inherent in it" [2] is in my opionion not a
clear enough translation of the German "Es ist vielleicht eine Reihe
von Millionen Jahren und Jahrhunderten verflossen, ehe die Sphäre
der gebildeten Natur, darin wir uns befinden, zu der Vollkommenheit
gediehen ist, die ihr jetzt beiwohnt."
[2] 1755, Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven, Part Two,
Section Seven, Concerning Creation in the Total Extent of its
Infinity Both in Space and Time
[4] 1790, The Critique of Judgement, § 80, Of the necessary
subordination of the mechanical to the teleological principle
in the explanation of a thing as a natural purpose.


Sep 14, 2007, 1:49:12 PM9/14/07
On Sep 14, 12:09 pm, "Wolfgang G. Gasser" <> wrote:
> Interesting quote from 'Evolutionary Theory and Kant's Critique' [1]:

I would like to understand dialectical thinking.:-)

So if you have a few minutes, I will be your Freund fur zwei wolke!

Matt Silberstein

Sep 18, 2007, 8:00:01 AM9/18/07
On Fri, 14 Sep 2007 18:09:37 +0200, "Wolfgang G. Gasser" <>

If you wish an actual discussion of this you should go to In particular, try to contact John Wilkins: he has a
solid understanding of the history and philosophical ramifications of

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