Vegetable Significance: Evolution by Natural Selection
Charles Darwin set the foundations for a new paradigm of life by stripping evolution of its normative and progressive elements. He reimagined efficient, formal, and final causes in biology, creating a new synthesis similar to Aristotle’s nutritive soul. Natural selection provides a causal nexus that links organization and purpose to a history of interactions between population and environment. This emphasizes vegetable proto-agency in place of animal or rational agency. It makes organization and purpose empirically tractable. Two contemporaries, Alfred Russel Wallace and Herbert Spencer, also defended evolution by natural selection. They stayed closer to medieval concepts of causation, leaving their theories closer to vitalism.
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