Darwinian Misadventures in the Humanities

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Nonspecific Binding
  • Copyright: 2009-08-15
  • Publisher: Routledge

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In recent decades the humanities have been in thrall topostmodern skepticism, while Darwinists, brimming withconfidence in the genuine progress they have made in thesciences of biology and psychology, have set their sightson rescuing the humanities from the ravages of postmodernism.In this volume, Eugene Goodheart attacksthe neo-Darwinist approach to the arts and articulates apowerful defense of humanist criticism.E. O. Wilson, the distinguished Harvard biologist, hasspoken of converting philosophy into science, substitutingscience for religion, and formulating a biologicaltheory of literature and the arts in Consilence: The Unityof Knowledge. Goodheart demonstrates that Wilson’s efforts,and those of his colleagues Richard Dawkins, StevenPinker, and Daniel Dennett among others, have resultedin scientism rather than science. If, for example, Dawkinshad contented himself in The Selfish Gene with the claimthat Darwinism had made worthless other answers to thequestion of how we have evolved, he would have given offenseonly to creationists, but questions of meaning andpurpose are of another order.Contemporary Darwinist critiques err in assumingthat art and traditional criticism aspire to truths that canbe codified in terms of scientific laws. If this were so, wewould have to regard the speculations of Plato, Aristotle,Augustine, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Rousseau asworthless. Goodheart exposes the philistinism of literaryDarwinism, the bad faith and inverted fundamentalismof the Darwinian approach to religion, and the dangersof the eff ort to create a Darwinian ethical system. Takentogether, Goodheart’s arguments show that in movingbeyond their area of competence, the neo -Darwinistscommit an ideology, not a science.

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