Schopenhauer on evolution

I don’t know if by the time of writing the Fourfold root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Darwin had published his Origin*. In this book he criticizes De Lamarck. He writes about De Lamarck

For he quite seriously maintains and tries to prove at length, that the shape of each animal species, the weapons peculiar to it, and its organs of every sort destined for outward use, were by no means present at the origin of that species, but have on the contrary come into being gradually in the course of time and through continued generation, in consequence of the exertions of the animal s will, evoked by the nature of its position and surroundings, through its own repeated efforts and the habits to which these gave rise.

He [Schopenhauer] writes that this could not have been the case. He says there is a simple objection to this. He writes

[…]he overlooks the obvious objection which may be made, that long before the organs necessary for its preservation could have been produced by means of such endeavours as these through countless generations, the whole species must have died out from the want of them. To such a degree may we be blinded by a hypothesis which has once laid hold of us!

He says though

Nevertheless in this instance the hypothesis arose out of a very correct and profound view of Nature : it is an error of genius, which in spite of all the absurdity it contains, still does honour to its originator.

He has praise for De Lamarck while at the same time blames the French for the error. He writes

The true part of it belongs to De Lamarck, as an investigator of Nature ; he saw rightly that the primary element which has  determined the animal s organisation, is the will of that animal itself. The false part must be laid to the account of the backward state of Metaphysics in France, where the views of Locke and of his feeble follower, Condillac, in fact still hold their ground and therefore bodies are held to be things in themselves, Time and Space qualities of things in themselves ; and where the great doctrine of the Ideal nature of Space and of Time and of all that is represented in them, which has been so extremely fertile in its results, has not yet penetrated.

He writes that error in De Lamarck’s formulation lies in assuming

the animal to have first been without any clearly defined organs, but also without any clearly defined tendencies, and to have been equipped only with perception.

He continues to write that this idea if carried to its logical end, De Lamarck

ought to have assumed a primary animal which, to be consistent, must have originally had neither shape nor organs, and then proceeded to transform itself according to climate and local conditions into myriads of animal shapes of all sorts, from the gnat to the elephant.

This primary animal, he writes is simply the will to live and as such is not physical but metaphysical. He argues that

the shape and organisation of each animal species has been determined by its own will according to the circumstances in which it wished to live ; not however as a thing physical in Time, but on the contrary as a thing metaphysical outside Time.

The will to live, he writes is

the prius, the thing in itself : its phenomenon (mere representation in the cognitive intellect and its forms of Space and Time) is the animal, fully equipped with all its organs which represent the will to live in those particular circumstances.

and that it is the intellect[knowledge] that is adapted to the mode of life of each animal.

I think that gives a brief outline of his thoughts on the development of organisms to what we have now. And so to end this post, he writes

If, on this occasion, anyone were to raise the question as to whether Nature ought not to have provided insects with at least sufficient intelligence to prevent them from flying into the flame of a candle, our answer would be : most certainly; only she did not know that men would make candles and light them, and natura nihil agit frustra[ Nature does nothing in vain].

* He could have been familiar with the Darwinian theory since this edition is written in 1879, 2 decades after Darwin published the Origins.

What’s in a name

It was Shakespeare who wrote the immortal words in Romeo and Juliet

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

which raises the question of what the godless should call themselves. I know fully well am not the first one to write on this topic, but that has never stopped me from adding my two cents to any topic.

Many of us identify as atheist, the problem with this label is that it doesn’t tell you what I believe. As has been said by other interlocutors, it has a negative connotation. It doesn’t tell you also that I don’t believe in ghosts, unicorns, fairies which would raise the interesting question whether I should call myself a-ghost, a-fairies and so on. It also doesn’t tell you what I think of the Hindoo belief of reincarnation or nirvana and so the like.

The second very interesting issue here, is the fact that it the Judaic cults that have the issue of a personal celestial dictator who is concerned about who you have sex with, sends a son to die  and preaches that you shouldn’t get married if you can because the world is about to end and has its chosen people. In this respect I should be Non-Judaic. I have no belief in the existence of their cults’ god and so much more.

What then do I think we the godless[ whatever god means] should call themselves, if they must, which in my view is both an affirmation of belief and also deals with all the superstitions that have been with us since man began to believe and think. This label is Naturalist. It is an affirmation that you believe that nature is all there is, no ghosts, angels, afterlife and that phenomena follow religiously according to the laws of nature everywhere all the time. Together with being a naturalist, I subscribe to secularism that is state and church should be separated and am also a humanist.

This is nature’s beauty

It absolutely follows from my doctrine, that every being is its own work. Nature, which is incapable of falsehood and is as native as genius, asserts the same thing downright; since each being merely kindles the spark of life at another exactly similar being, and then makes itself before our eyes, taking the materials for this from outside, form and movement from its own self; this process we call growth and development. Thus, even empirically each being stands before us as its own work. But Nature’s language is not understood because it is too simple.

A. Schopenhauer’s Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it- the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.

W. K. Clifford

Those religious apologists, theists, woo doo believers and so on, take note

It is wrong alw…


Humanism is to insist the value of things human. Its desire to learn from the past, its exhortation to courage in the present and its espousal of hope for the future, are about real things, real people, real human need and possibility, and the fate of the fragile world we share.

It is about human life, it requires no belief in an afterlife. It is about this world; it requires no belief in another world. It requires no commands from divinities, no promises of reward or threats of punishment, no myths and rituals, either to make sense of things or to serve as a prompt to the ethical life. It requires only open eyes, sympathy and the kindness it prompts, and reason.

A C Grayling Against all gods

On free will- a continuing discussion

Many of you readers know my position on the discussion of free will. Today I will just post a few quotes I have come across in the book am currently reading and hope that we can continue this debate.

First, the author, Arthur Schopenhauer writes free will means

that a given human being, in a given situation can act in two different ways

he says elsewhere

[….] the most powerful motive then decides him and his actions ensue with just the same necessity as the rolling of a ball after it has been struck.

He quotes what has been written elsewhere by others and I will just rewrite them here.

Whatever conception one may form of the freedom of the will, for metaphysical purposes, its phenomena, human actions, are nevertheless determined by universal laws of Nature, just as well as other occurrence in Nature.

Another writes

All the acts of a man, so far as they are phenomena, are determined from his empirical character and from the other concomitant causes, according to the order of Nature; and if we could investigate all the manifestations of his will to the very bottom, there would not be a single human action which we could not predict with certainty and recognize from its preceding conditions as necessary. There is no freedom therefore with reference to this empirical character, and yet it is only with reference to it that we can consider man, when we are merely observing and as is the case in anthropology, trying to investigate the motive causes of his actions physiologically.

And lastly

It may therefore be taken for granted, that if we could see far enough into a man’s mode of thinking, as it manifests itself in his inner, as well as outer actions, for us to know every, even the faintest motive, and in like manner all the other causes which act upon these, it would be possible to calculate his conduct in future with the same certainty as an eclipse of the sun or the moon.

Adapted from Arthur Schopenhauer’s The fourfold root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason


Related articles

Free will again

A strange conception of free will

Homophobia on the rise in Africa

Whenever I see a comment like

We have moral values in Africa,don’t enforce western virtues on us, well illustrated in the Holy books,advocate for the once dying because of hunger and diseases rather wasting your time on some irrelevant issues of gay people.

I know I have come into contact with an ignorant sissy. The books he calls [sic] holy are not African and tell stories of Hebrew goat herders. Stories that our ancestors were sold to on the threat of death. Indeed, it is known in many places, the colonialist came immediately after the missionary who himself had come with a gun and bible. Either way the African was fucked. He had to swallow the bible hook, line and sinker and as years go by, we continue to produce ignoramuses who have not thought beyond what their parents, who didn’t know better, told them. What a shame!

Am at the same time at a loss what this particular person means when he says we have moral values in Africa. Does he mean that the moral values, whatever they are, are distinct from what others who make similar claims of possessing moral values hold? And which values are these?

The next respondent who pretends to offer a third way is still as bigoted and stuck in a rut as the rest. He writes

Both Africans and Westerners should reject the false choice suggested by this article: that either a) homosexual behaviour is accepted as normal or b) we violently and irrationally persecute those inclined to homosexuality. There is a third way; it can calmly and rationally be identified as wrong, and calmly and rationally stigmatized, and also violence and hatred can receive the same rejection.

which is in essence not different from saying we ostracize those who are gay among us as if human beings come marked heterosexual or whatever sexual? It is a failure to understand that they who speak loudest against others can’t tell anyone the day they made the choice to be straight. As I have said before, what two consenting adults do in their private bedrooms or on the street is their business and the sooner this sinks into people’s heads, the sooner we will deal with other problems that face our race.

I feel sad every time I read articles full of such bigotry, stupidity and intolerance.

Homophobia on the rise in Africa: rights group