Metaphysics in the Work of Charles Darwin
Metaphysics or Modernity?: Contributions to the Bamberg Summer School 2012: 29-44 (2013)
It is not hard to see how two visions of nature are intertwined in Darwin’s Journal of Researches: one vision, the province of romantic authors depicting the sentiments awakened by certain landscapes, the other, the domain of natural scientists describing the world without reference to the aesthetic qualities of the scenery. Nevertheless, analyses of this double perspective in Darwin’s work are relatively rare. Most scholars focus on Darwin, the scientist, and more or less ignore the aesthetic aspects of his work. Perceiving the gradual transformation of Darwin’s world view, however, depends on analyzing the two different modes in which Darwin approached and perceived the world. While one can, on occasion, find commentaries on the beauty of the natural world in Darwin’s early work, the passage of time produces a modification in the naturalist’s manner of perceiving nature. This does not, however, mean that Darwin ceases to find beauty in nature; on the contrary, the disenchantment, in Max Weber’s words, that Darwin’s theory produces should not be understood in a pejorative, but rather in a literal sense. The theory of evolution, in effect, divests nature of its magical character and begins to explain it in terms of natural selection, according it, in the process a new and more intense attraction. In the present work, the metaphysical implications of this new vision of the world are analyzed through the eyes of its discoverer.