Evolutionary Epistemology or the Difficulties of Getting Started

  • Adolf Heschl


Even Darwin himself anticipated that, ultimately, his theory of a continuous evolution of life must also be valid for the exceptional characters of man, even including a completely new epistemology of our species, and he was very clear in this regard (cf. Engels 1989). Nevertheless, the numerous social controversies which he initiated with his radically new views on the origin of man and his evolutionary change in the course of phylogeny did not—as was in fact to be expected—lead to a really comprehensive integration of the human species into his theory of evolution. Rather, they left behind a very special compromise which primarily had the purpose of defusing some of the potentially very strong threats at that time—and not only then—and of establishing self-awareness among people. Through this compromise, the thesis was recognized that at least the body/organic evolution of man has proceeded according to the Darwinian principles of natural selection and that this process of purely morphological change will probably also take place in the future. At the same time, however, the idea that the particular mental capacities of Homo sapiens could be understood sufficiently within the frame of selection theory was explicitly excluded. In addition, this restriction was not understood as only being provisional and perhaps caused by some unknown methodological limits, but viewed with regret by Darwin and many of his more fervent supporters (e.g., Spencer, Haeckel, Boltzmann, Mach) as a fundamental theoretical impossibility.


Mental Capacity Evolutionary Epistemology Exceptional Character Phlogiston Theory Darwinian Principle 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adolf Heschl
    • 1
  1. 1.Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition ResearchAltenbergAustria

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