Darwin and the British Tradition


I. History of philosophical psychology: Renaissance to Modernism

Jones (1975): Renaissance marked by changes in thought:
regarding authority and the "Deductive" system of knowledge

Exploration of the oceans and riches of the new worlds
The rise of money power: Capitalism
Rise of new politics: Nationalism
Reformation: New Christianity


Enlightenment: Age of Reason & Mathematics
Change in thought which is marked by scientific
empiricism, naturalism, and materialism which
enabled the rise of individualism through revolution

Reason over nature: Technology, industry,
democracy and the presence of large urban centres

Arrival of the Modern era:
neo-Foundationism, presentism, professionalism

Counter-Enlightenment: Rejection of the
"imperialism of reason and science" for
"Romanticism and Spiritualism"

Charles Taylor (1991): The Malaise of Modernity
Disenchantment: Purposeless commodities under control

II. Intellectual background to Darwin: Natural science

Heraclitus (fl. 500 B.C.): Everything is in flux or change. Becoming

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.): Scala naturae (levels or types of psyche).
Nutritive, Sensitive, Rational


Francis Bacon (1561-1626): Inductive observation and theory building

John Locke (1632-1704): Simple ideas building complex ideas,
Operations of the mind (not complete tabula rasa)
Ideas of primary qualities (direct perception) and
ideas of secondary qualities (mind added)

Issac Newton (1642-1727):
Laws of mechanical world,
naturalism, empiricism

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) Vitalism:
Organic matter is purposeful and intelligent

Acquired inheritance of traits or characteristics

Epigenetics twins

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873): Associationism


Science seeks to provide empirical laws (limited in circumstance) from the inductive methods of agreement and disagreement

However, one should be able to deduce those empirical laws from "genuine" causal laws of nature


Utilitarianism: Moral philosophy as a natural science.
Ethics are to be determined from the balance of
"good" & "bad" consequences. The hedonistic calculus

Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882)


Darwin Family tradition of doctors
Erasmus Darwin: Physician, poet, 
Robert Darwin: Physician, guided Charles' education and controlled his "purse-strings" 

Mother died in 1817,
Charles off to school - Showed an early interest in nature and variation of species


From beetle collector to acclaimed naturalist (Barros, 1998)
-from Ordinary to Extraordinar


Identity crisis?
-Disliked Medicine (Edinburgh University)
-Not cut out for the clergy (Cambridge University)

-Finally a chance to be a naturalist, transformed
from observer to investigator

Beagle Voyage (1831-1836): Naturalistic observations

- Identity Crisis revisited



-Concerned about the implications to society and himself
of publishing his ideas (delayed many years)

- Gave up Christianity around 1849. His father died
in 1848, Charles was now forty. In 1852 his daughter
Annie died and Darwin lost his faith Moore (1989).
 July 1, 1858: Linnean Society with Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913)

On the origin of species (1859)

Offered a (partial) "mechanism for evolution": Natural selection
  1. Nature reproduces species and individual
    progeny with a diversity of inheritable traits
  2. Some traits are "better suited" to the
    environments in which they occur
  3. Because there is a "constant struggle" against
    the environment for food-resources, some traits
    enable only some of progeny to reproduce
  4. Traits themselves change "randomly" in time
  5. Over eons numerous small changes become significant
  6. Environments vary and change in traits "selected"
  7. New species emerge (and keep changing)
-The expression of the emotions in man and animals
Emotions are expressions used for communication and survival

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884): Mechanism of inheritance

Revolution in Evolution - The New Biology - Epigenetics

III. Insider vs. Outsider perspectives on Darwin

Alexander (1996): Two historical perspectives on Darwin Insider (Leahey, 1994): Darwin as father of behaviorism Outsider (Alexander, 1996): Darwin The descent of man (1871)
was more varied than commonly interpreted

II. Neo-Darwinism: A variety of perspectives

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895): Darwin's Bulldog


Herbert Spencer (1820-1903): Synthetic Philosophy

1855-Principles of psychology: Associationism and vitalism of evolution
Development goes through differentiation and then integration

1897-Continuity of species in quantitative fashion
Instincts, reflexes, habits, intelligence and the brain


"Survival of the fittest" = "Red in tooth and claw" ?

Eugenics : "Anti-Social" Darwinism and Laissez-faire Capitalism

Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911)


Broad interests: Fingerprints, word-association, 
efficacy of prayer, testing drugs A to Croton oil, dog whistle, Weather Maps.  

Hereditary Genius (1869): Individual selection 
Survey of brilliant thinkers; all came from "talented families" 
Eugenics: Improve nature with selective breeding 


Anthropometric laboratory: 
1884 International Health Exhibition

Charged "fee for service" of testing intelligence 
Sensory intelligence: sensitivity, discrimination, reaction times 

 Statistics and "co-relations"


Adolph Quetelet (1796-1874): Normal curve and "error" variance 
Galton used the normal curve and group means to measure individuals. 
Each person can be measured against the group and each group against the next.

 Karl Pearson (1857-1936): Socialist who supported "planned, politically enforced program of eugenics" 1907- Established Eugenics Review

Statistical correlation coefficient - r

The rise comparative psychology
    George John Romanes (1848-1894)
    C. Lloyed Morgan (1852-1936)


Additional References


Alexander, B.K., (1996). Historical Foundations to Psychology. Study guide to
psychology 307 -, Centre for Distance Education, Simon Fraser University.

Barros, C. A. (1998). From Beetle Collector to Acclaimed Naturalist. In Autobiography:
Narrative of Transformation. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Moore, J. R. (1989). Of love and death: Why Darwin 'gave up Christianity'. In J. R.
Moore (Ed.) History, Humanity and Evolution: Essays for John C. Greene.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.