Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/392

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ence in Darwin himself. The main limitation of his theory results from its bondage to the idea of utility—a heritage from the eighteenth century. In illustration of these cross-currents, still inexplicable, recall that Monge, the mathematician, though born in 1746, was essentially a nineteenth century man; so was Lamarck, born two years earlier; so was Erasmus Darwin, even if sixty-nine of his seventy-one years belonged to the heyday of Pope, Johnson and Paley. Similarly, when we face towards the future rather than the past, we find the seminal ideas of the nineteenth century already astir soon after the middle of the eighteenth. Winckelmann, in 1758; Lessing, in 1766; and, more plainly. Herder, in 1786, are apostles of synthetic as opposed to analytic methods, of "life-history" as against mere taxonomy. Listen to Herder, and note how he prophesies the genetic era:

Among millions of creatures whatever could preserve itself abides, and still after the lapse of thousands of years remains in the great harmonious order. Wild animals and tame, carnivorous and graminivorous, insects, birds, fishes and man are adapted to each other.

And again, on the side now of the human sciences:

All the songs of primitive peoples turn on actual things, doings, events, circumstances, incidents, on a living, manifold world. All this the eye has seen, and since the imagination reproduces it as it has been seen, it must needs be reproduced in an abrupt fragmentary manner. There is no other connection between the different parts of these songs than there is between the trees and bushes of the forest, the rocks and caverns of the desert, and between the different scenes of the events themselves.

You see the same thing in Goethe's "Iphigenie" (1787), in his "Versuch die Metamorphose der Pflanzen zu erklären" (1790), and his "Zur Morphologic" (1795-1807), above all, in "Faust," erster Theil (1808). Small wonder, then, that the systematic thinkers bred in the same movement, Kant aside, should be dominated by the genetic idea of development; and even Kant, especially in his "Kritik der Urtheilskraft" (1790), to say nothing of the extraordinary prevision of his "Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels" (1755), is not without latent suspicions concerning the direction to be taken by the new tide. To mention none of his other manifold services—of which, in a company of investigators, the part he played at the foundation of the University of Berlin should merit particular remembrance—Fichte's "Der geschlossene Handelsstaat" (1800), originates a line of socio-economic thought thoroughly characteristic of Darwin's lepoch, and affiliated sometimes with biology. Schelling's "Einleitung zum Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie" (1799), as I have tried to show in another place,[1] exercised no little formativepower over a group of his countrymen who made important contributions to the early modern phases of physiology, chemistry, botany,

  1. "The Movement Towards 'Physiological' Psychology," pp. 75 f.