Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 77.djvu/559
KANT AND EVOLUTION 553
Kant wrote a review of a disquisition by an Italian anatomist, Moscati, 20 on the difference between the structure of man and that of the lower animals. Moscati's principal contention was that the upright posture is not " natural " to man, and was not his primitive attitude. Upon this Kant remarks in part as follows :
Here we have once more the natural man upon all fours — an acute anat- omist having traced him back to that condition. Dr. Moscati shows that the upright gait of man is forced and contrary to nature, and that his structure is such that this position, when it has become necessary and habitual, entails upon man various disorders and diseases — clear proof enough that he has been led by reason and imitation to depart from his primitive animal posture. In his inner constitution man is not formed otherwise than as are all the quadrupeds. . . . Paradoxical as this conclusion of our Italian physician may seem, yet in the hands of so acute and philosophical an anatomist it attains to almost complete certainty (erhalt er beinahe eine vollige GevHssheit). We see from this that nature's first care was for the preservation of man as an animal, in his own interest and that of the species; and for this purpose the posture which was best adapted to his internal structure, to the position of the foetus, and to pro- tection against dangers, was the four-footed one; but we see also that there lay in man a germ of reason, through the development of which he was to become fitted for society. He consequently assumed the posture most suitable to this, that of a biped. By virtue of this, man, on the one hand infinitely surpasses the animals; but, on the other hand, he is obliged to endure certain disorder* that afflict him in consequence of his having raised his head so proudly above his former comrades.
Here, then, Kant readily accepts the doctrine that man was origi- nally a four-footed animal, which, pari passu with its unique develop- ment of rationality and of the social instincts, assumed the upright atti- tude. His promptness in making the views of Moscati his own cer- tainly indicates a general predisposition to evolutionary ways of think- ing; and, if we had no other expressions of Kant's dealing with the subject more directly, it would be not unnatural to construe this asser- tion of the descent of civilized man from quadrupedal ancestors as equivalent to an assertion of the mutability of species. Yet the latter doctrine, it must be noted, is nowhere expressed or directly implied in the review of Moscati; and it will presently become clear that Kant would not have regarded it as a legitimate inference from any of his admissions about the earlier condition of humanity. From the time of publication of this review to the end of his life Kant seems to have remained what may be called an anthropological evolutionist; but he deliberately refused to make the transition from this position to a gen- eral biological evolutionism.
20 Moscati was professor of anatomy at the University of Pavia. His book appeared in 1770; a German translation by Beckmann, professor in Gottingen, was published in 1771.
(To be continued)
VOL. LXXVII. — 38.