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Descartes and Darwin - Essay Example

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Descartes and Darwin

Secondly, the paper will explore how history and modern science has added more weight to the views of Darwin which suggests that this view may be more ‘correct’ in its nature. The Debate on Human Nature One of the most well-known parts of Descartes’ philosophical views is the concept that to be human is to be composed of two incompatible pieces; the body and the soul. The body is full of the natural processes, whilst the soul contains all the information that we need to be ourselves, including all of our decision-making faculties and our personalities (Descartes, 2006). These two components, perhaps communicating through the pineal gland, are thoroughly different in composition and matter. Descartes would argue that human nature is partially comprised of the soul which cannot be explained by science and therefore there are elements of ourselves that science cannot explain. Descartes did, however, suggest that “the mind depends so much on temperament and the disposition of one's bodily organs that, if it is possible to find a way to make people generally more wise and more skilful than they have been in the past, I believe that we should look for it in medicine” (Descartes, 2006, p45), meaning that there are some elements of human nature which should look to science for explanation. Charles Darwin had very different ideas. Often known as the father of evolution, Darwin explored a great number of scientific concepts pertaining to human and animal behavior, often finding that these two concepts were linked and very similar. This view can be illustrated from Darwin’s words that “it has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science” (Darwin, 1871, p4). This just shows Darwin’s faith in science, and the power of science to explain even the inexplicable. Human nature is no exception from this rule, and as Darwin suggests, “there is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties” (Darwin, 1971, p34). Having studied a number of animal behaviors throughout his career, it is obvious that Darwin had more interaction with different creatures and therefore more information to draw his strong conclusion about human nature from. As the father of evolution, it is obvious that Darwin will favor an evolutionary perspective of human nature, one that suggests that all elements of our behavior and other aspects of being a human can be explained by science. Although there were some gaps in the evidence Darwin provided for this hypothesis, these have been slowly filled since the publication of The Descent of Man and are continually being updated as time goes on. It is perhaps the fact that Darwin’s work fits so neatly with modern science which makes it the more appealing hypothesis, as explained further below. These views are evidently at odds with each other. Although Descartes does alert the reader to the importance of science and medicine, it is evident from Discourse on the Method that there are some things that Descartes feels are inexplicable. This may seem like a feasible resolution to come to, as human nature and personalities appear to be extremely complicated and different from those of other ...Show more


Descartes & Darwin Human nature is a complex thing, comprising of a number of psychological, biological and philosophical elements that make it difficult to define and explain. Descartes, in Discourse on the Method, suggests that human nature is so complex that it cannot be explained fully by science…
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Descartes and Darwin essay example
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