Front Page Titles (by Subject) TWELVE: PROGRESS BY NATURAL DEVELOPMENT: FROM DARWIN TO TEILHARD - The Perfectibility of Man
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TWELVE: PROGRESS BY NATURAL DEVELOPMENT: FROM DARWIN TO TEILHARD - John Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man 
The Perfectibility of Man (3rd ed.) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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PROGRESS BY NATURAL DEVELOPMENT: FROM DARWIN TO TEILHARD
When Darwin’s Origin of Species first appeared in 1859, Engels was repelled by its “crude English method”—its deference to facts?—but welcomed it in so far as it helped to “smash theology.”1 Not only orthodox theology, indeed, but the concealed theology of Idealist metaphysics must yield, so Engels thought, to Darwin’s arguments. “Darwin,” Engels writes, “. . . dealt the metaphysical conception of Nature the heaviest blow by his proof that all organic beings, plants, animals, and man himself, are the products of a process of evolution going on through millions of years.”2 Whatever its usefulness in destroying God and metaphysics, however, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection did not, on the face of it, provide men with any ground for believing that History was on their side. Whereas in Herder’s Ideas man had been represented as the crown of Nature, towards which all natural processes converged and beyond which, except through his perfection, no progress was to be expected, Darwin’s “natural selection” has no special interest in man. A radical change in man’s environment could result, if Darwin was right, in the total disappearance of the human species, just as the dinosaur had become extinct; a new species might arise, capable of taking over from man his present supremacy, or the world might be destroyed by a cosmic collision. Herder was quite sure that providential “Nature” would not permit a stray comet to destroy the earth, but natural selection has no control over the vagaries of comets.
At the very end of the Origin of Species, no doubt, Darwin expresses his confidence that ultimately all “corporeal and mental endowments” will, as a consequence of natural selection, attain to perfection. He wrote thus: “As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of equally inappreciable length. And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.”3 But it does not follow from this that man must be perfected; the perfection of his “corporeal and mental endowments” may entail the evolution of man into a quite new species, just as the capacity of certain fish for moving over land could only be perfected by their ceasing to be fish.
The co-discoverer of the principle of natural selection, Alfred Wallace, was much more optimistic; he was prepared to predict that evolution would issue in an earthly paradise for men. Evolution, he said, in language very similar to the language Trotsky was later to use, must culminate in a condition in which the world is “inhabited by a single homogeneous race, no individual of which will be inferior to the noblest specimens of existing humanity.” Government will die out, to be replaced by voluntary associations. Men will no longer permit themselves to be ruled by their passions, once they have discovered that “it was only required of them to develop the capacities of their higher nature, in order to convert this earth, which had so long been the theatre of their unbridled passions, and the scene of unimaginable misery, into as bright a paradise as ever haunted the dreams of seer or poet.”4 Paradise, then, lies within men’s reach. Not only a spiritual élite, not only an elect few, but each and every man will “by the development of his higher faculties” enter into it, if not here and now, then at least within the history of this earth.
“The capacities of their higher nature” which Wallace expects men to develop include, it is interesting to observe, mystical and para-psychological faculties, which in their present form presage, so Wallace thinks, the powers of man in his earthly paradise. The expectation that man would, as a result of evolutional progress, develop “higher faculties” is by no means peculiar to Wallace. It is astonishing just how often “god-smashing” evolutionists have substituted for the ancient gods a new god—man as he is to be, with powers of a kind which had ordinarily been ascribed only to the divine. The time was not far distant when a Utopian novelist could tell his readers that “if humanity sprang from gorillas, from humanity gods shall proceed.”5 Some evolutionists, as we shall see, did not go quite so far: supermen rather than gods are, on their view, the final outcome of evolution. But the line of demarcation between these three views—that evolution will finally produce perfect men, that it will give rise to supermen, that its outcome will be the emergence of gods—is anything but a sharp one.
Darwin’s and Wallace’s hopes for the future rest, for the most part, on an inductive argument. So far “the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken” and therefore, they conclude, progress in the future can confidently be expected, without fear of a total cataclysm. But Darwin, in the passage quoted above, also used another argument which, could it be sustained, would be considerably more powerful. “All corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection” just because natural selection works “solely by and for the good of each being.” What, we must now ask, is the justification for this last premise?
The arguments in its favour were more fully developed by Herbert Spencer, first of all in his Social Statics. Spencer had been an evolutionist before he met with Darwin’s writings. The general idea of evolution was, indeed, in no sense Darwin’s invention. To say nothing of earlier evolutionists, Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, had combined a belief in biological evolution with perfectibilist hopes; the word “evolution” had been freely employed, too, by German metaphysicians, as the antithesis of revolution, to express their belief in the inevitable but gradual progress of the universe. In Spencer’s eyes, as in the eyes of such metaphysicians, evolution is a general process to which the whole universe, not only the animal kingdom, is subject—a process which transforms the Universe, and every particular form of existence it contains, “from an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity.”6 But Spencer took over from Darwin the idea of natural selection, converted it into a theory of “the survival of the fittest,” and applied it to ethics.
Evil, he argued, always results from a thing’s failure to adapt to its environment. A camellia planted in calcareous soil will become sickly and die, because its present structure does not enable it to cope with lime. Just for that reason, Spencer concludes, evils tend to disappear; either the camellia learns to adapt or else it dies; in either case the evil of its sickliness is evanescent. And if it survives, Spencer thought, it will pass on this newly-acquired capacity to cope with lime to its progeny, so that not only its own sickliness but a weakness of the whole species will eventually be conquered.
From the fact that so many evils affect men living in society, we can therefore deduce, according to Spencer, that man has not yet adapted himself to social living. “His primitive circumstances,” Spencer tells us, “required that he should sacrifice the welfare of other beings to his own; his present circumstances require that he should not do so; and in as far as his old attribute still clings to him, in so far is he unfit for the social state.”7 All the sins of man flow from this unfitness; he sins because he has not yet learnt to be altruistic, has not yet been fully converted into a social being.
To assert that men are morally perfectible is to assert, on Spencer’s view, that they must eventually, by the process of adaptation, come to be wholly fitted for the social state. That this will happen, Spencer has no doubt. “As surely as a blacksmith’s arm grows large,” he writes, “. . . so surely must the human faculties be moulded into complete fitness for the social state; so surely must the things we call evil and immorality disappear; so surely must man become perfect.”8 The very nature of adaptation, that is, guarantees human perfection. “Evolution can end,” as he elsewhere puts it, “only in the establishment of the greatest perfection and the most complete happiness.”9 And again: “Progress . . . is not an accident, but a necessity.”10
In a footnote he added in 1891 to the revised edition of Social Statics, Spencer shows himself, however, more than a little uneasy about his earlier views. He had forecast “the evanescence of evil.” For “evanescence,” he came to think, he should perhaps have written “diminution.” In bad habitats, he admits, men may prove unable completely to adapt. And as they approach nearer to perfect adaptation, so the strength of their impulse towards further adaptation diminishes. They can “get by” without perfect adaptation. Completely perfect adaptation, Spencer therefore concludes, would take an infinite time.11 Once again, the ideal of infinite improvability has triumphed over the idea of an absolute perfection, once-and-for-all attainable.
Not all evolutionists were prepared to believe, with Spencer, that natural selection could safely be relied upon to perfect man’s nature, or, indeed, that man could have been elevated to his present heights merely as a consequence of its operations. Thus, although Henri Bergson accepted the fact of evolution and did not try to defend the orthodox view that man was separately created by God, he sought to show that man’s emergence on the earth—or, at any rate, the emergence of beings endowed with freedom—is nevertheless no accident of natural selection. Evolution, Bergson argued in his Creative Evolution, is the work of a vital impetus, an élan vital, which has succeeded in penetrating matter and has by this means given rise to living beings. This “vital impetus”—so far like Plato’s Demiurge—is not free to do as it will: it is limited by the matter upon which, and the environment within which, it works. We are not to think of it, either, as having deliberate plans—the deliberate intention, for example, of creating man. In this respect it is quite unlike Plato’s Demiurge. It radiates like a fan, trying to conquer matter in this way or that, until it finds that it can progress no further in a particular direction. Then it retreats to make the same attempt elsewhere. It created insects, for example, but failed in its task of imposing intelligence on them; the ant-heap and the bee-hive represent the highest levels of its achievement in that particular line of development.
In man, according to Bergson, evolution has satisfied itself; it has produced a being who possesses “the largest possible amount of indetermination and liberty.”12 No doubt some species other than man as we know him might have been produced by the “vital impetus”; perhaps such a species has in fact evolved on another planet. But evolution, so Bergson argues, was bound to produce either man or a being who is, as it were, man’s “moral equivalent.” It by no means follows, however, that man is an ideal being. He has been endowed with intelligence, certainly, but intelligence, according to Bergson, is a practical tool, designed to give man control over nature, permitting him to conquer the world; it does not enable him to penetrate to the true nature, the inward life, of things. For its own practical purposes, intelligence breaks up the fluid continuity of the Universe into sharply definite, easily manageable, conceptualized entities. In so doing, it falsifies the true nature of Reality. Only the mystic, Bergson maintains, and then by relying on intuition, not on intelligence, catches a glimpse of the essential nature of the Universe, its unity, its continuity.
In his Creative Evolution Bergson’s argument, like Hegel’s, was essentially retrospective. He tried to show how Nature produced man, and why in man it went as far as Nature could. In The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, he looked beyond that point. “A body compact of creative intelligence and, round about that intelligence, a fringe of intuition,” he still says, “was the most complete thing nature had found it possible to produce.”13 But in man, Bergson goes on to suggest, evolution developed a being who is endowed with the intrinsic power of growing further in that direction in which evolution has so far moved, if only he chooses to exercise that power. The Universe, Bergson goes so far as to say, is a “machine for the making of gods.” But it depends on human effort whether that “essential function” of the Universe is exercised on this “refractory planet.”14
In a curious manner, Bergson is reversing what had been the view characteristic of Christian mysticism, that although men must strive to make themselves fit, by purgation, to receive God, they can take the final steps towards the godlike condition only if they submit to God’s grace. Human effort, Bergson is saying, plays no part in the first steps towards the godlike condition; the first steps are evolution’s doing. From that point on, however, the initiative rests entirely in man’s hands. What form such human effort must take Bergson leaves uncertain. Perhaps, he says, a great leader will arise, who will persuade his fellow-men to set out once more on the path towards perfection. Or perhaps psychical research will reveal to men what they have it in them to become and will thus encourage them to make themselves gods. But although the Universe is in some not very clear sense “on the side of” such human aspirations, it will not, by its own mechanisms, as distinct from human effort, lead them to human perfection. Once more we meet with that vacillation—between the view that men must in the end be perfected and the view that they will only be perfected if they arouse themselves to new efforts—which is typical of “developmental” varieties of perfectibilism and reflects in a new form the old Augustinian-Pelagian controversy.
One further detail is worth noting. To move forward, Bergson suggests, men will first have to move back, returning to an earlier point in human history in order to fan out again in a new direction. Our present life, Bergson complains like the anarchists before him, is moving in the direction of ever greater luxury and ever greater complexity. It threatens to convert men, one might say, into sybaritic ants. To become godlike, therefore, men must first return to a simpler life. So in Bergson’s scheme of salvation the old ascetic impulse reasserts itself, once more allied both with mysticism and with the belief that man can become godlike.
It is an important presumption of Bergson’s theory of evolution, in contradistinction from Darwin’s, that at a certain point in the evolutionary process there has been a leap: “man alone has cleared the obstacle.” The animal kingdom as a whole, whatever path it took, found it impossible to make the leap into freedom.15 This same doctrine of “a leap” is to be found in the exponents of “emergent” as distinct from “creative” evolution. For the most part, emergent evolutionists were anything but inclined to follow Bergson, in whose writings, they complained, analogy is everywhere substituted for reasoning, and rhetoric for evidence. Their leader, Lloyd Morgan, was typical in his reaction when he wrote of Bergson in his Instinct and Experience that “with all due respect for M. Bergson’s poetic genius—for his doctrine of Life is more akin to poetry than to science—his facile criticisms of Darwin’s magnificent and truly scientific generalizations . . . serve seriously to hinder the progress of biology.”16 Whereas Bergson’s creative evolution is a metaphysics, his own theory, Lloyd Morgan tells us—although many of his critics were sceptical on this point—is a serious scientific hypothesis. But for all his admiration for Darwin, Lloyd Morgan follows Bergson in opposing what he regards as Darwin’s exaggerated emphasis on the degree of continuity in evolution. With man, Lloyd Morgan is confident, “something new” entered the biological scene.
Of course, one might be moved to reply, “something new” enters history with the first appearance of any species, or, for the matter of that, of any new mutation, and even more conspicuously “something new” enters history when birds first appear, or reptiles, or mammals. On the face of it, however, man is more closely related to the apes than birds are to reptiles; it seems odd, from a biological point of view, to think of man as “something new,” in a very special sense of “something new” which contrasts him with the whole previous course of animal history.
The crucial fact, Lloyd Morgan would retort, is that with the appearance of man life takes on a quite new form, as “mind” or “consciousness.” Consciousness involves, he would add, not merely those capacities for seeing, or hearing, or dealing intelligently with the world which man admittedly shares with the apes, but also, and now in distinction from the apes, a capacity for self-consciousness which enables man to look reflectively and critically at himself, at his powers, and at the course his evolution has so far taken. The appearance of this capacity was, according to Lloyd Morgan, a crucial step in the evolution of the world, as crucial as that earlier step by which physico-chemical processes developed the new property of life. At certain points in evolution, on his view, changes occur which are quite fundamental, in that what emerges is not only different from anything that has previously existed, as a bird is different from a reptile, but is “on a higher level than its predecessors” in a sense in which both bird and reptile are “on the same level.”
Even orthodox Darwinians were sometimes driven to not dissimilar conclusions. In a lecture on “Evolution and Ethics,” delivered on May 18, 1893, Thomas Henry Huxley vigorously criticized the Spencerian argument that “fitness” can be identified with “goodness,” in the moral sense of that word. A species, he observed, may be “fit to survive” just in virtue of its brutality and violence.17 Another Darwinian, if a more heretical one, G. J. Romanes, had already suggested that brutality and parasitism were, on the face of it, the best guarantee of survival. After millions of years of evolution, he had written, “we find that more than half of the species which have survived the ceaseless struggle are parasitic in their habits, lower and insentient forms of life feasting on higher and sentient forms; we find teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers moulded for torment—everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, and sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in deaths of brutal torture!”18 Far from its being the case, Huxley argued in a similar spirit, that cosmic processes are on the side of morality, precisely the reverse is true. “The ethical progress of society depends,” so he suggests, “not on imitating the cosmic process . . . but in combating it.”19 Man is on a “higher level” than his fellow-animals just because he can combat the cosmic processes which they must be content to endure.
As his critics were not slow to point out, however, Huxley’s supposition that man can combat cosmic processes comes strangely from a Darwinian. For Darwin’s principal thesis is that man is part of Nature and subject, therefore, to its “cosmic forces,” in no sense standing outside or above them. In a note added to the printed version of his lecture Huxley substantially admitted the force of this criticism. “Strictly speaking,” he there wrote, “social life, and the ethical process in virtue of which it advances towards perfection, are part and parcel of the general process of evolution.”20 He went on to grant that even in rudimentary forms of human society “love and fear come into play, and enforce a greater or less renunciation of self-will” so that “the general cosmic process begins to be checked by a rudimentary ethical process, which is, strictly speaking, part of the former.” “Strictly speaking” ethical progress is part of the evolutionary process, as Darwin had already maintained, and Huxley provides us with no good reason for speaking other than strictly.
Natural selection, the conclusion would seem to follow, has after all been responsible for man’s ethical progress, even if it has chosen a somewhat deplorable method of bringing that progress into being. So much granted, argument is still needed to show that there is anything in natural selection to guarantee that ethical progress will continue. Perhaps it is no more than an accident that natural selection—in so far as it has done so—has encouraged the rise of morality. Huxley was certainly correct in emphasizing that the future victory of morality does not follow from the mere fact that natural selection “preserves the fittest.”
Darwin himself, like many another progressivist, had been somewhat disturbed by the fact that “the intellectual development of the old Grecians” had not been matched by their successors during the centuries that followed. But this, he finally concluded, was a point in favour of Darwinianism as against the Lamarckian theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. “For in a state of anarchy, or despotism, or bad government, or after irruption of barbarians, force, strength, or ferocity, and not intellect, would be apt to gain the day.”21 But however favourable to natural selection, this consideration certainly tells against the inevitability of perfection—unless it counts as “perfection” when man becomes more brutal in order more effectively to cope with his enemies. If by “perfection” we mean something other than the better adjustment of a species to a new environment, if perfection be used in a sense which entails moral perfection, there is not the slightest ground for believing that such perfection will be ensured by the steady flow of evolution. The “fittest” might, in a particular environment, be the most bloodthirsty of parasites, the least ethical of monsters. In Hitler’s Germany, S.S. guards were fitter to survive than the most moral of Jews. It may be that Hitler’s Germany foreshadows the future of mankind. Granted that some men have now developed an ethical outlook which enables them to criticize the cruelties they observe in nature, this does not, on the face of it, serve to demonstrate that man is bound steadily to improve himself, morally and intellectually. Perhaps it is just these morally sensitive men who are destined to die out.
Even without the aid of a special metaphysics of emergence, some contemporary philosopher-biologists—T. H. Huxley’s grandson, Julian Huxley, will serve as an example—try to meet such objections by laying great stress on what Huxley calls “the uniqueness of man” as distinct from his continuity with the animal kingdom. Man, Huxley argues, is different from the other animals in a way which guarantees his continuous mastery. He is, in the first place, enormously variable, and yet has kept his capacity to interbreed within the whole range of that variability. As a result of his habit of migrating and his relative willingness to ignore differences in, for example, colour when he mates, he has contained variability within a single species. Thus it happens that “the difference between a somewhat subnormal member of a savage tribe and a Beethoven or a Newton is assuredly comparable in extent with that between a sponge and a higher mammal.”22 And this gives man, Huxley points out, an immensely fruitful reservoir from which he can breed in order to advance the general level of the human species.
More important still, Huxley suggests, is the fact that with man a new type of evolution has entered upon the scene; for the first time acquired characteristics can be passed on. The human child has a long period of adult-dependence. The adults on whom the child is dependent pass on to him general concepts, tradition, a stock of information, in the manner which Herder had emphasized. So it comes about, Huxley goes on to maintain, that by the gradual increase in his scientific knowledge, man can substitute new methods of “effective, progressive change”—methods which are less dilatory, less wasteful, less cruel—for natural selection. He can deliberately bring about progress, he can deliberately impose upon himself and his planet what Huxley calls “the best and most enduring of our human standards.”23 Indeed, Julian Huxley is not, in the end, so far removed from his grandfather. For it would be easy enough to restate the thesis of Thomas Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics in the following way: evolution has now produced in man a being who is critical, from an ethical standpoint, of natural selection, and who seeks to introduce other, more ethical methods, of producing biological changes. The difference is that Huxley thinks of the “uniqueness of man” as itself a product of evolutionary development; he is prepared to say therefore that there is within evolution itself a tendency to progress, not universally present but running as “a narrow thread . . . through the whole web of change.” For evolution has produced man, and in man a being uniquely capable of progress.24
The difficulty remains, of course, which his opponents had urged against T. H. Huxley. If “natural selection” is in fact the mechanism by which biological characteristics are preserved, then to speak of man as substituting other methods for natural selection is, on the face of it, as absurd as it would be to speak of him as “defying the laws of gravity.” When men travel to the moon they do so by relying on the “laws of gravity,” not by defying them. When men breed new varieties, similarly, they do not, in so doing, “overcome” natural selection—and it makes no difference if the “new varieties” are new varieties of men. If the new varieties cannot accommodate themselves to the environment in which they find themselves, and have no way of changing their environment, then they will die out.
What should more accurately be said, it might be replied, is that natural selection has now produced a being who can deliberately breed for perfection and deliberately vary the environment so that the new varieties he breeds will survive. He does not “overcome” natural selection, if this entails that he can now breed without any longer worrying himself whether the new varieties might not, as a result of their environment, die out. But he can now, as natural selection could not, ensure that men will be perfected.
To argue thus, however, is to adopt the standpoint of genetic perfectibilism, with all its difficulties. There is no longer any guarantee in the mere course of natural history that man will be perfected. Everything now depends on the knowledge and the goodwill of the geneticists, imperfect men breeding for perfection—to say nothing of the technical question, raised by Medawar, whether the attempt to breed for perfection is not, for genetic reasons, self-defeating. Either evolution perfects of itself or else it can no longer be invoked to support a developmental, as distinct from a manipulative or managerial, perfectibilism.
Julian Huxley is not content, even, to suggest that men are, or can be, somehow “outside evolution.” He wants to take matters still further. Men possess, he says, hidden powers whose nature they have not yet appreciated. Or if that is not quite true, these powers have only been appreciated, and then partly, by those Eastern mystics who, Huxley is prepared to acknowledge, have shown the world “what transcendent states of inner peace and unity of spirit the human personality is capable of.”25 Man, it therefore appears, has a future before him in which his uniqueness will be made more apparent; he will come into possession of spiritual powers the nature of which he is yet only on the verge of understanding, such powers as telepathy, extra-sensory perception, and Yoga concentration. On this question Huxley and Bergson are at one, in however improbable an alliance.
There is in several versions of evolutionary perfectibilism more than a hint, then, that man will develop into a being who is, by present standards, a superman. Such expectations had already been made explicit by the philosopher-economist Eugen Dühring. Under the conjoint influence of Darwin and Marx, Dühring had suggested that “humanity could eventually be transformed into a more perfect type of living being and would then look back upon the type of man whom we consider most highly developed as upon some extinct species of animal.”26 Man will evolve, that is, not only into a better man, but into a species higher than man. The most striking point about Dühring’s superman is that he will at last have shaken himself free from religion. That liberation, according to Dühring, will transform man into superman; he will at last be free to realize his potentialities without fear of supernatural intervention and punishment. Joachim’s age of the Holy Ghost, when men for the first time are fully free, is thus transformed by Dühring into an age without the Holy Ghost.
The idea of a “superman” is most commonly associated with the philosophy of Nietzsche. Nietzsche liked to speak scornfully of Darwin. Darwin possessed, he says, “the intellect of a respectable but mediocre Englishman.” A more damaging comment, from a German, is scarcely imaginable. And certainly Nietzsche did not believe that his superman will come into being by natural selection, as distinct from human choice. Nietzsche’s attitude was, for the most part, Pelagian: he exhorted men to give birth to the superman by an exercise of will.
There are occasions, no doubt, on which he sounds like a Darwinian. In Thus Spake Zarathustra he addressed his fellow-men in post-Darwinian terms: “Ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man? What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.”27 But although in this passage Nietzsche writes as if the “tide” were moving in favour of the production of supermen, he is elsewhere only too willing to admit that what may rather emerge is that terrifying figure, the bane of the modern imagination, the “Last Man”—mass-produced man, a being so despicable that he is no longer capable even of despising himself. If the Superman is, according to Nietzsche, “the meaning of the earth,” this is only to say that he is what the earth needs. Although he is “called for” it does not follow that he will come.
The belief in the inevitability of progress, Nietzsche argues in The Will to Power,28 is nothing but the old religious way of thought, thinly disguised: progress, as we might put the matter, is Providence in his working clothes.* Indeed, Nietzsche reacted so strongly against progressivism as to revert to the Stoic conception of an “eternal recurrence.” The cyclical conception of history, he came to feel, is the only sure defence against the resurrection of God—that God who is now dead, since man has seen through him, but the relics of whose reign are not so easily disposed of. In thus separating the idea of the superman from any sort of evolution-based aspiration, Nietzsche, as so often, was unique.
George Bernard Shaw, under Samuel Butler’s influence, pulled the two ideas together again. In the preface to his Man and Superman he is adamant that man as he now is has gone as far as he can go. “We must therefore frankly give up the notion that Man as he exists is capable of net progress.”29 For progress to be possible, then, man must be replaced by Superman. Man’s only hope is his evolution into a higher species. By “evolution,” however, Shaw means, in Man and Superman, deliberate breeding. Not until Back to Methuselah is his enthusiasm for “creative evolution” in full swing; that play is designed, he tells us, as the “beginning of a Bible for Creative Evolution.”30 The phrase is an interesting one: it is, indeed, only if evolution is conceived of in what are fundamentally religious terms, as the mode of operation of a Providential force, that it can provide any ground for the belief that man must turn into Superman.
Exponents of an evolutionary based progressivism have sometimes, we said, not been satisfied to predict the superman; evolution, on their view, has its eyes on something higher than the superman, something which can only be called divine. By the time Darwinism got under way, it was already a familiar view among German metaphysicians that human history can only be understood as part of the process by which God comes to be conscious of himself. The relation between God and the Absolute Idea in Hegel is no doubt obscure; sometimes Hegel writes, as Bradley does in Appearance and Reality, as if God is no more than an imperfect approximation to the true Absolute, sometimes, especially in his later writings, as if God and the Absolute were identical. This ambiguity explains why some of his disciples saw in him a critic of religion and others—as he saw himself—as its defender. In his Philosophy of History, however, Hegel was prepared explicitly to say that it was his task to “justify the ways of God to man” by demonstrating, in opposition to the common belief that Providence works in ways too mysterious for men to understand, that the works of Providence are visible in history—a Providence defined as “Wisdom, endowed with an infinite Power, which realizes its aim, viz., the absolute rational design of the World.”31 By 1811 Schelling could write without fear of contradiction, at least in Germany, that “it is now a customary idea to regard the entire history of the world as a progressive revelation of God.”32
Ernest Renan, French-born but German-admirer, united the German concept of an evolving God and the French doctrine that the advance of science must bring progress in its train. By so doing, he gave birth to the first religion of science. In his The Future of Science, Renan divided the history of mankind, in Joachim’s manner, into three stages: the age of myth, the age of analysis, the age of complete understanding. In the age of myth, he says, men project their dreams on to the world. The second age, the age of analysis represented by the Enlightenment, destroys the myths, without attempting to understand them; in so doing it impoverishes human life. But it has to undertake this work of destruction in order to prepare the way for a third stage, in which it is for the first time understood that the world revealed by science is in itself miraculous. In this third age, which Renan thinks of himself as initiating, science and religion no longer appear as bitter opponents but as united in a system of ideas which is at once science and religion. Only after such a unification has been accomplished, according to Renan, can sages arise who, religious and scientific at once, are fit to guide mankind “by the light of reason along the path to perfection.”
Man is to perfect himself, then, by coming to a fuller understanding of what he can be. The trouble with religions like Christianity, Renan argues, is that they have drawn a sharp distinction between the sacred and the profane. In consequence, they have identified perfection with moral perfection, to the exclusion of much that is of supreme value in human nature. A man is perfect, according to Renan, only if he conjoins in himself all that is valuable, not only morality, but curiosity, wisdom, poetry, passion. Renan reinstates, that is, the Renaissance ideal of “the universal man” harmoniously conjoining every variety of human perfection. “The perfect man,” he writes, “will be he who is at the same time poet, philosopher, scientist, virtuous man, and that not by intervals or at distinct moments of his life; . . . he is indeed simultaneously poet and philosopher, philosopher and scientist, one in whom, in a word, all the elements of humanity are joined in a higher harmony, as in humanity itself.”33 And the actualization of the ideal, the perfection of man is, at the same time, so Renan tells us, the coming-into-being of God, God who exists as an ideal, but only as an ideal, until man perfects himself through science.
In a later work, his Philosophical Dialogues, Renan developed these ideas in a little more detail. For men to perfect themselves, he there says, they must first develop a new consciousness, higher than any they now possess but already adumbrated in nations or churches in so far as they behave as if they were individuals possessed of a single mind. As a result of this development of a “group mind,” there will eventually come into existence, according to Renan, “a single being, summing up all the joys of the universe”—a being whose perfections all men will share in so far as they have helped to create him.34 The whole universe is in travail for such a being: “let us console ourselves, poor victims: a God is being made with our tears.”35 Not, as Kant thought, a perfect state, not even an ethical commonwealth, but God is what human beings must by their efforts help to bring into existence.
Renan was not the only one who sought to bring together religion and science into a single harmonious whole and to base on their unity his confidence in the perfectibility of men; that, we might even say, was the most characteristic intellectual enterprise of the nineteenth century. At a more popular level, Henry Drummond’s The Ascent of Man set out to show that “the God of Evolution,” a God who gradually reveals his nature to man, “is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology.”36 Evolution, according to Drummond, is progress towards the full revelation of a benevolent God of love. Properly speaking, he says, it should be called involution rather than evolution; its meaning is given by what it moves towards, not by what it develops out of. There is no need, Drummond argues against Comte and Renan, of a new religion to incorporate the revelations of evolution; Christianity can be such a religion. Christianity is the way in which evolution spreads abroad its message of love; Christianity shows men the path they must follow in order to reach that final consummation towards which all evolution is directed. Drummond’s “nature” is a Nature infused by love, a Nature whose aim it is that man shall perfect himself—a far cry from Romanes’ “Nature” with its preference for savagery and parasitism, a far cry, too, from Augustine’s God.
In the twentieth century, the same hopeful note has been sounded by Teilhard de Chardin. Although a Jesuit, Teilhard is willing to agree with Renan that traditional Christianity has gone astray, although not that it needs to be replaced by a religion of science.* In the first place, he alleges, Christianity has been at fault in so far as it has wrongly supposed the Universe to be static; it has supposed, that is, that “the spirit is no longer under way, it is not going anywhere, it is simply hanging on; nature is complete.” This erroneous supposition has forced it to conclude that “perfection can consist, for men, only in an individual ascent towards the supernatural.” For Teilhard, very much in Renan’s manner, perfection lies in the progress, not of individuals but of mankind as a whole, towards a unification with God which, if supernatural in character, is at the same time the “natural” outcome of evolution.37
The second mistake, Teilhard agrees with Renan, lies in Christianity’s attempt to drive a wedge between the sacred and profane. “There is a sense in which he [God],” writes Teilhard, “is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle, as well as of my heart and of my thought.” Not realizing this, he says, “nine out of ten practising Christians feel that man’s work is always at the level of a ‘spiritual encumbrance’”—an attitude of mind which leads them to live “a double or crippled life.” In contrast, Teilhard argues that “nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.” He looks forward to a time when “there will be little to separate life in the cloister from the life of the world.” Only then, he says, will mankind “have attained the intended plenitude of its humanity.”38
Teilhard does not realize, it would seem, that in taking this view he was adhering to an already-established Christian tradition, exemplified in Luther and in Francis de Sales, for which man’s vocation is sacred. This is not altogether surprising; Teilhard shows few signs of having any close acquaintance with the Protestant tradition. And he was developing his ideas at a time when, in reaction against “modernism” and in terror of Communistic humanism, the Roman Catholic Church was anything but inclined to enter into an alliance with science or to extol the greatness of human achievements. As for Protestantism, under Kierkegaard’s influence and in an attempt to turn back the rising tides of secularism, it had reinstated an attitude to the world not far short of Manichaeanism. Kierkegaard had written, for example, that “Christianity does not unite men, on the contrary, it separates them—in order to unite each single person with God”; he had been prepared to maintain that “to love God means to hate the world.”39 For Teilhard, in contrast, it is above all characteristic of Christianity that it unites men. And the “two great loves” which it has to reconcile, without the fusion of which “there can be no Kingdom of God,” are the love of God and the love of the world.40
No one could be more remote than is Teilhard from Gnosticism or from that version of Christianity which bids men flee the world. Teilhard is willing to admit that “matter is the burden, the fetters, the pain, the sin and the threat to our lives,” that “it weighs us down, suffers, wounds, tempts and grows old.” But asceticism, he says, looks no farther than this: “and it recoils, exclaiming ‘Flee!’” That, to Teilhard, is, in Dante’s phrase, “the great refusal,” not to see the creative, as well as the destructive, powers of matter. “What would our spirits be, O God, if they did not have the bread of earthly things to nourish them, the wine of created beauties to intoxicate them, and the conflicts of human life to fortify them?” The problem is “to contemplate the sphinx without succumbing to its spell.”41 Christ has assumed material form: that sanctifies the world. “Matter,” so Teilhard addressed the world, “you in whom I find both seduction and strength, you in whom I find blandishment and virility, you who can enrich and destroy, I surrender myself to your mighty layers, with faith in the heavenly influences which have sweetened and purified your waters.”42
When Teilhard speaks of “the love of the world” he is not referring, of course, to what is commonly called “worldliness”; he does not mean that men should devote themselves to the pursuit of wealth and reputation. Nor does he mean that they should love the world as an artist may love it, rejoicing in its diversity of form and its sensual texture. To love the world, for Teilhard, is to love it as something with which men can co-operate in its progress towards ever higher spiritual levels. (The influence of Bergson is obvious.) Man alone can love it in this way. With his evolution, according to Teilhard, something “quite new” has come into existence, a being who was capable of becoming conscious of himself as evolving, a being who can understand that “the World is constantly, even if imperceptibly, emerging a little further above nothingness” and who can help it to do so.43 Christianity has treated the world, in Augustine’s fashion, as something which has simply to be used. For Teilhard, in contrast, the Christian’s motto should be “to heaven through fulfilment of earth”—a fulfilment which implies co-operation with the world. “The very notion of Christian perfection,” he therefore writes, “. . . has to be revised and overhauled.”44 It is because they shared this attitude to the world that Teilhard and Julian Huxley, for all that Teilhard was a Jesuit and Julian Huxley a humanist, could recognize in one another kindred spirits.
In what direction is the world moving? In the first place, so Teilhard argues, towards a society infused by mutual love, an organized society in which men can live as ultra-human beings. Teilhard has a passion for unity—“there is only one Evil = disunity”45 —for the bringing together of superficially disparate ingredients into a single complex form of organization; his attitude towards unity, indeed, is the attitude of a mystic, although a mystic who sees God in the universe rather than above it. From childhood, he tells us, he had “the passion for the Absolute.”46 “To be entirely happy,” he writes, “I needed to know that that ‘Some One Essential Thing’ existed, to which everything else was only accessory or even an ornament.”47 He carried over that same attitude into adult life: “The multitude of beings,” he once wrote, “is a terrible affliction.”48
However confused and incoherent the world might sometimes look to him he never lost his conviction that “this incoherence is the prelude to a unification.”49 It was not merely, Teilhard thought, that he possessed, what others lacked, a taste for unity. Questions of taste apart, there was evidence in evolution itself, he tried to argue, that it sought ever higher degrees of complex unification. Man could not stay as he now is, the “human” world could not remain for ever “a huge and disparate thing, just about as coherent, at the moment, as the surface of a rough sea.”50 To say that it could do so would be to deny, he maintains, the clear teachings of evolution or—as he liked, in Drummond’s manner, to call it—“involution.”
Even if humanity is bound to be further unified in wider complex wholes, however, it is anything but clear that the resulting unified complex would be infused by love. But Teilhard thought that there were moral reasons for believing that such a love-infused society must be, at least, the object of men’s strivings. For only in such a society could men love their neighbour as themselves. Teilhard’s “two great loves,” it will be remembered, were the love of God and the love of the World, not, as one might expect from so convinced a Christian, the love of God and the love of one’s neighbour. Teilhard confesses, indeed, “that I have long been, and even now am, recalcitrant to the love of my neighbour”; he had, he tells us, a “sort of repugnance,” a “feeling of revulsion” towards his fellow-men. He could not help seeing in them “the greatest threat we meet on the road our personality follows as it develops.” Far from its being the case that men have a natural sympathy towards one another, they would, he thinks, if they were left to their own resources, respond to each other with mutual repulsion rather than with sympathy.51 Teilhard had good friends, but it is extraordinary how little, in such writings as Letters from a Traveller, he has to say about the Chinese people amongst whom he lived and worked and how superficial his observations are. Scenery, yes, people as picturesque objects, yes. But he has none of that passionate interest in the diversity of human beings, their diversity in outlook, customs, beliefs, which mark the humanity-centred traveller. To Teilhard such diversity was but an obstacle to unification.
This attitude to his fellow-men is not, of course, peculiar to Teilhard. Rousseau, as we have already seen, had traced the source of all corruption to “the hands of men.” But perhaps Kant, writing under Rousseau’s influence, comes nearer than anyone else to Teilhard. In his efforts to achieve Christian freedom, man finds himself, Kant says, corrupted by other men, not because they are “sunk in evil” but because they inevitably arouse in him the spirit of emulation. “It suffices that they are at hand, that they surround him, and that they are men, for them mutually to corrupt each other’s predispositions and make one another evil.”52
It is not only evil communications, that is, but communications of any sort which corrupt. (The desert fathers, it will be remembered, held precisely this same view of human relationships.) The corruption now inherent in human relationships can, according to Kant, only be overcome in that “ethical commonwealth,” that society based on “the laws of virtue”—i.e. on non-coercive laws—in which alone reason can find full satisfaction. Such a society, he further argued, can never be complete until it is total, until it is a society of all rational men, ruled by God.
On Teilhard’s view, something very like Kant’s “ethical commonwealth” must come into being, but not because reason would otherwise be perpetually dissatisfied but because that is the direction in which evolution is moving. He thinks of it, too, as a society infused with love rather than, in Kant’s typically moralistic fashion, with virtue. He agrees with Kant, however, on the vital point: only in such a society can men safely love their neighbours, seeing in them a helpful ally rather than a corrupting rival in their quest for perfection. Men can begin to love one another, Teilhard nevertheless suggests, as soon as they have “woken to an explicit consciousness of the evolution that carries them along, and begin to fix their eyes, as one man, on one same thing ahead of them.”53 Teilhard is like so many other scientists, then, in setting up as his ideal a society which is nothing less, in its spiritual atmosphere, than one great research team, dedicated to a single objective and working towards that objective by co-operative effort, under the leadership of Christ.
There was, Teilhard thought, empirical evidence—as well as the general principle that evolution always moves in the direction of greater organization—to suggest that men, here and now, were working towards such a form of society.* It was much easier for Teilhard to sympathize with Fascism or with Communism than with such of his fellow-Christians as were suspicious of new social orders or saw no reason for expecting that the future would be brighter and better than the past. He was almost completely indifferent, it would seem, to the loss of liberty Fascism and Communism entailed or to the suffering they brought with them. As one of his biographers has put it, Teilhard was “in a sense the least humanitarian of men.”54 He is quite unable to appreciate the feelings of those who wish that the atomic scientists had “destroyed the dangerous fruits of their invention.” In his essay “Some Reflections on the Spiritual Repercussions of the Atom Bomb” he does not so much as mention Hiroshima or Nagasaki; it is enough for him that the atom bomb showed what could be accomplished by scientific team-work and that it would, so he thought, forward the internationalization of the world.55 One is uncomfortably reminded of what the Countess Tolstoy once wrote to her husband: “Maybe you can remain above all feelings of affection for your own children, but mere mortals like me cannot. Or maybe it’s that we don’t try to justify our lack of any profound love by pretending to love the whole universe.”56
Teilhard was prepared, indeed, to write with approval of Fascism that it “opens its arms to the future” in so far as it sets out “to embrace vast wholes in its empire”; he went so far as to maintain that it “may possibly represent a fairly successful small-scale model of tomorrow’s world.” What was wrong with Fascism, in his eyes, was that it is nationalistic, and so too narrow in its outlook. He has nothing to say against its illiberalism; he praises Fascism, indeed, because “it is more anxious than any other system to allow for the preservation of the élite (which means the personal and the Spirit) and to make good use of it.”57 Writing about the Communist forces in China, Teilhard suggests that the real struggle in the modern world is not, as Marx had thought, between worker and exploiter or, as so many Christians believe, between Christian and atheist; fundamentally the conflict is between the bourgeoisie “who simply wish to make the world a comfortable dwelling-place” and the representatives of what he elsewhere calls a “new substance,” “homo progressivus,” a species made up of such men as can only conceive the world as “a machine for progress—or, better, an organism that is progressing.” This “new type of man” is most fully exemplified in “scientists, thinkers, airmen and so on—all those possessed by the demon (or the angel) of Research.” Whatever their metaphysics, their politics, their religion, such men are, in Teilhard’s eyes, the true “toilers of the Earth,” the humanity of tomorrow, “the agents and elements of planetization.” As for those who merely want to make the world more comfortable, they are “the cast-offs.”58
There was not much love, one naturally objects, in Mussolini’s Italy or in Stalin’s Russia. And, of course, Teilhard would freely grant that neither Fascist Italy nor Communist Russia were, in detail, the society of which men are in search. The first was insufficiently “universalistic,” the second insufficiently “personalistic.” But he needed some evidence that mankind was now moving towards “the planetization of humanity,” some evidence stronger than the inductive argument, for what it is worth, that up until now evolution had moved from a primitive disunity towards an ever higher degree of unified organization.
He somehow had to show, too, against humanists like Julian Huxley, that evolution cannot be content with man as he now is, or man in an intellectually and morally improved form, that it is moving towards a type of organization which includes but is higher than man.59 Teilhard found the evidence he needed, or so he thought, in the rise of totalitarian social organizations. “The modern totalitarian régimes,” he wrote, “. . . are in line with the essential trend of ‘cosmic’ movement.”60 (They scarcely afford, as we have already suggested, any evidence that evolution was moving towards what he called “amorization,” the growth and diffusion of love.) Even as late as 1946, he was still prepared to write that it was too early “to judge recent totalitarian experiments fairly,” to make up our minds whether “all things considered, they have produced a greater degree of enslavement or a higher level of spiritual energy.”61
Teilhard’s primary interest, however, is in the perfecting of the Universe; to this climactic event the perfecting of man is only a preliminary. In the final culmination the individual person, like everything else, is taken up into the mystical body of the Universal Christ, a Christ who gathers to himself “not only the scattered multitude of souls, but also the solid organic reality of the universe, taken whole and entire in the extension and total unity of its energies.”62 (Teilhard was profoundly influenced by Paul, especially the Epistle to the Ephesians, according to which God will “in the fulness of times . . . gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.”)63 Man will be finally perfected, then, only when he is unified with Christ—so far Teilhard writes in the spirit of Christian mysticism. And at the end, he also agrees with the mystics, it is only by divine grace, human effort being at this point powerless, that the final consummation can come about. The movement towards perfection, if not the final state, can, Teilhard nevertheless argues, be described in purely scientific, secular terms and supported by scientific evidence, as distinct from the “intuitions” on which Bergson relied or the teachings of revelation on which Christians have ordinarily rested their confidence in the future.
If we still have doubts, if we still feel that it is an unjustified extrapolation from the scientific facts64 to suggest that the entire Universe, and with it man, are moving towards perfection, Teilhard appeals to moral-pragmatic considerations. Men must believe that mankind is perfectible, since otherwise human effort will collapse.* “‘Positive and critical’ minds,” he writes, “can go on saying as much as they like that the new generation . . . no longer believes in a future and in a perfecting of the world. Has it even occurred to those who write and repeat these things that, if they were right, all spiritual movement on earth would be virtually brought to a stop?” And if it is, he goes on to add, “the whole of evolution will come to a halt—because we are evolution.”65 Never more ingenuously has it been argued at once that evolution, as Christ’s work, must go on and that if men cease their efforts, it will cease to go on.
To an extraordinary degree, then, Teilhard built into a single system almost all the main forms of perfectibilism which we have so far distinguished from one another. He was a mystic: perfection consists in union with God. He was a Christian: perfection depends on Christ’s working in man through evolution. He was a metaphysician: perfection consists in the development to its final form of that consciousness which is present, according to Teilhard, even in elementary electrons. He believed in perfection through science: scientific research is, in his eyes, the prototype of “working with God.” He believed in perfection through social change: men are to be perfected through their participation in a society infused with love. He believed that Christianity shows us in what perfection consists: the New Testament, and especially Paul, reveal to us the nature of that final unity in which evolution must finally come to rest; the Incarnation, the sacrifice of the Mass, symbolize the unity of the material and the spiritual. He believed that science can demonstrate that humanity is moving towards such a perfection. He was Pelagian in his constant emphasis on human effort; he was anti-Pelagian in so far as he argued that God’s grace is essential if mankind is to achieve its final perfection. If Teilhard had not existed, it would almost have been necessary to invent him, in order to weave together our diverse themes.
Let us now look back on the path we have taken in our discussion of progress by natural development. For Joachim, progress to a new age was guaranteed by prophecy, even if its manner of development can be empirically discerned in the course of history. Leibniz, in contrast, argued that the final perfection of all things is guaranteed on purely metaphysical grounds; everything must in the end achieve the perfection inherent in it, by a necessity inherent in the very nature of the Universe. Herder accepted the Leibnizian metaphysics, but concerned himself more particularly with the perfection of mankind; mankind will perfect itself, he tried to show, in a form of society in which men can fully realize their “humanity”; they work towards that society by means of traditions, which are handed on from generation to generation by education. Kant looked forward, rather, to an ideal State, or, in his later writings, to an “ethical Commonwealth.” Although he commits himself, at times, to a Leibnizian metaphysics, he also presents us with a moral-pragmatic argument; men must work towards an ideal society because nowhere else can the demand of their reason be satisfied. Hegel set out to understand past history rather than to forecast the future; he saw in history the gradual coming to full self-consciousness of an Absolute Idea, sometimes identified with God, by means of dialectical processes. His left-Hegelian followers rejected the view that this process of development had reached its final point in the Prussian State; the dialectic, they argued, is still under way; it is a dialectic which works, according to Marx, through class-struggles and will finally issue not in the State but in a class-less, State-less, society.
The rise of Darwinianism led to an even greater emphasis on the perfection of men by natural processes: in Spencer, the survival of the fittest was identified with the survival of the best, and the future perfection of mankind was deduced from the fact that evolution selects the fittest. Other philosophers rejected the view that natural selection is sufficient to guarantee the perfecting of mankind; evolution, they maintained, is the expression of a “life-force,” which has finally produced in man a being capable of shaping his own social destiny.
In one way or another, indeed, there has been a growing insistence, in opposition to Darwin, that man, whatever his origins, is unique, unique in his freedom, unique in his power of co-operating with—or perhaps working against—the processes of evolution. Although he has developed out of lower forms of living organisms, the self-consciousness which makes him unique represents, it is argued, an “emergent” quality, not definable purely in terms of living processes and still less in terms of physico-chemical reactions. But if man has thus “emerged,” the further conclusion is drawn, there is good reason for believing that something higher than man may yet be evolved, some form of superhuman being, with psychical powers we can yet only guess at, perhaps a God, perhaps gods.
There is no conflict, so a number of philosophers have sought to show, between religion and evolution. It has been a matter of controversy, however, whether evolutionary theory demonstrates the need for a new religion to include the new idea of an evolving Universe or whether nothing more is needed than a transformed—or for the first time clearly understood—Christianity. In Teilhard these various tendencies converged. Evolution, so he suggested, moves towards, first, the perfection of man in new forms of social organization and, then, ultimately, man’s union with Christ—a union which evolution prepares us to expect, in so far as it involves the unification of all things, but to which revelation gives its specifically Christian content. So if Teilhard is right, the idea of perfection by natural development is identical with the idea of perfection by mystical union with Christ; science prepares the way for “the coming of Christ,” as do human attempts to find a unified form of social organization in which men, at last, can love their neighbours as fellow-workers for Christ.
[1. ]Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels: Briefwechsel, Vol. II (1854–60), p. 548 (Engels to Marx, December 12, 1859), quoted in Benz: Evolution and Christian Hope, ed. cit., p. 84.
[2. ]Engels: Socialism—Utopian and Scientific, in Marx-Engels: Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 121.
[3. ]Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species, ch. XIV (London, 1859), p. 489.
[4. ]Alfred R. Wallace: “The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man Deduced from the Theory of ‘Natural Selection,’” in Journal of the Anthropological Society of London, Vol. II (1864), pp. clxix–clxx.
[5. ]Edgar E. Saltus: “New York from the Flat-Iron,” a magazine article quoted in H. G. Wells: The Future in America (London, 1906), p. 43.
[6. ]H. Spencer: First Principles, 6th ed. (London, 1900), ch. XVII, p. 367. For a fuller account of evolutionary ideas in this period, see J. A. Passmore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy, ed. cit., ch. II.
[7. ]Social Statics, Pt. 1, ch. II, §3; orig. ed. (London, 1857), p. 62. For a critique of Spencer’s ethics see G. E. Moore: Principia Ethica (Cambridge, 1903; repr. 1948), ch. II, §29–35.
[8. ]Social Statics, Pt. I, ch. II, §4; ed. cit., p. 65.
[9. ]First Principles (London, 1862), ch. 16, as quoted in P. B. Medawar: The Art of the Soluble (London, 1967), p. 49. This passage disappears from the sixth and last edition: Spencer was persuaded by the argument from entropy that the universe is running down. Compare Medawar, op. cit., pp. 39–60 and Passmore: A Hundred Years of Philosophy, ed. cit., p. 113.
[10. ]Social Statics, ed. cit., Pt. I, ch. II, §4, 65.
[11. ]Social Statics, Abridged and Revised (London, 1892), pp. 27, 31.
[12. ]Henri Bergson: Creative Evolution, trans. A. Mitchell (London, 1911), ch. III, pp. 264–86. The quotation is on p. 265. For a clear, brief account of Bergson’s views, see T. A. Goudge: “Henri Bergson” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 1.
[13. ]Bergson: The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (first publ. Paris, 1932), trans. R. A. Audra and C. Brereton (New York, 1935; repr. 1949), p. 301.
[14. ]Ibid., p. 306.
[15. ]Creative Evolution, p. 279.
[16. ]Lloyd Morgan: Instinct and Experience, 2nd ed. (London, 1913), p. 180.
[17. ]T. H. Huxley: “Evolution and Ethics” in T. H. and Julian Huxley: Evolution and Ethics, 1893–1943 (London, 1947), pp. 81–82.
[18. ]“Physicus” (G. J. Romanes): “Supplementary Essay in Reply to a Recent Work on Theism,” A Candid Examination of Theism (London, 1892), p. 171.
[19. ]Evolution and Ethics, p. 82.
[20. ]Ibid., Note 20, p. 101.
[21. ]The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin, 3 vols (London, 1887), Letter to C. Lyell, March 12, 1860, in Vol. II, p. 295.
[22. ]Julian Huxley: “The Uniqueness of Man” in Man in the Modern World (London, 1947; repr. 1950), p. 5.
[23. ]Ibid., p. 21.
[24. ]Julian Huxley: “Thomas Henry Huxley and Julian Huxley: An Imaginary Interview” in Man in the Modern World, p. 209.
[25. ]Julian Huxley: Evolution in Action (London, 1953), p. 149.
[26. ]Der Werth des Lebens (Breslau, 1865), trans. in Benz: Evolution and Christian Hope, p. 92, from the 3rd ed., 1881, p. 194.
[27. ]Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra, Pt. I, Prologue, §3, trans. Thomas Common in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, ed. O. Levy, Vol. 11 (Edinburgh, 1909).
[28. ]The Will to Power, Bk. IV, Aphorisms 1062–63, trans. A. M. Ludovici in The Complete Works, Vol. 15, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh, 1913), Vol. II, pp. 425–27.
[* ]Lord Acton tells us that “this constancy of progress in the direction of organized and assured freedom, is the characteristic fact of Modern History, and its tribute to the theory of Providence.” (Inaugural Lecture in Lectures in Modern History, ed. H. Trevor-Roper, p. 26.)
[29. ]Preface to Man and Superman in The Complete Prefaces of Bernard Shaw (London, 1965), p. 179.
[30. ]Preface to Back to Methuselah in Complete Prefaces, p. 546.
[31. ]G. W. F. Hegel: The Philosophy of History, Introduction, §111, as trans. J. Sibree, last rev. ed. with new introd. by C. J. Friedrich (New York, 1956), p. 13.
[32. ]F. Schelling: The Ages of the World, trans. F. de W. Bolman (New York, 1942), p. 194.
[33. ]Ernest Renan: L’Avenir de la science (written 1848–49; first publ. Paris, 1890), in Oeuvres complètes, ed. H. Psichari, Vol. III (Paris, 1949), p. 736. For Renan’s personal and political background see H. W. Wardman: Ernest Renan (London, 1964).
[34. ]Dialogues et fragments philosophiques (1876) in Oeuvres complètes, Vol. I (Paris, 1947), p. 623.
[35. ]Ibid., p. 630.
[36. ]Henry Drummond: The Lowell Lectures on the Ascent of Man (London, 1894), ch. X, p. 428.
[* ]Sometimes, however, in the manner of a Joachim or a Lessing he looks forward to the emergence of a new, and higher, form of Christianity. He developed a fondness for expressions with the prefix “super”—super-humanity, super-Christ, super-Charity—although he explained that he meant by these expressions to refer not to a difference in nature but “a more advanced degree of realization and perfection.” See Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Science et Christ (Paris, 1965), trans. as Science and Christ by René Hague (London, 1968), ch. X.
[37. ]Teilhard de Chardin: Unpubl. “Notes sur la notion de perfection chrétienne” (1942), quoted in Emile Rideau: Teilhard de Chardin, trans. R. Hague (London, 1967), p. 37.
[38. ]Le Milieu divin (Paris, 1957), trans. B. Wall and others (London, 1960; Fontana ed. 1964, repr. 1967), pp. 64–67.
[39. ]Søren Kierkegaard: The Last Years, ed. cit., pp. 54, 130.
[40. ]Teilhard de Chardin: Letter of 31 December 1926, quoted in Henri de Lubac: The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin, trans. R. Hague (London, 1967), p. 105.
[41. ]Le Milieu divin, ed. cit., pp. 106–7.
[42. ]Ibid., pp. 110–11.
[43. ]Teilhard de Chardin, quoted in Lubac, op. cit., p. 23.
[44. ]“Research, Work and Worship” (1955), as trans. in Science and Christ, p. 220.
[45. ]“My Universe” (1924), as trans. in Science and Christ, p. 80, n.
[46. ]As quoted in Lubac, op. cit., p. 13.
[47. ]Quoted from “Le Coeur de la matière” (1950, unpubl.) in Nicolas Corte: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, p. 3.
[48. ]Le Milieu mystique (1917), quoted in Lubac, op. cit., p. 251.
[49. ]Letter to the Abbé Breuil, 25 May 1923, in Letters from a Traveller, 1925–1955, trans. R. Hague and others (London, 1962; paperback ed. 1967), p. 34.
[51. ]For the sources of these quotations and the full development of this theme, see Rideau, op. cit., pp. 471–72.
[52. ]Kant: Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, Bk. III, Introduction, as trans. ed. cit., p. 85.
[53. ]Teilhard de Chardin: La Centrologie (1944), No. 29, in L’Activation de l’énergie (Paris, 1958), p. 126, quoted in Rideau, op. cit., p. 54.
[* ]Once again we are reminded of Renan, of Renan’s view that here and now men could discern that higher form of life of which they would eventually form part. What human beings are creating, Teilhard says in a note, is “a living organism”—a living organism which “encloses us.” As evidence of what that “living organism” would be like, he refers to our experience in war-time when “wrested out of ourselves by the force of a collective passion, we have a sense of rising to a higher level of human existence” [“A Note on Progress,” written 10 August 1920, first published in L’Avenir de l’homme (Paris, 1959), trans. as The Future of Man by N. Denny (London, 1964; paperback ed., 1969, pp. 21–22)]. In general terms, what Teilhard is trying to do is to Christianize Renan and, beyond Renan, German “developmental” philosophies.
[54. ]Robert Speaight: Teilhard de Chardin (London, 1967), p. 89.
[55. ]Teilhard de Chardin: “Some Reflections on the Spiritual Repercussions of the Atom Bomb,” first publ. 1946, in The Future of Man, ed. cit., p. 145.
[56. ]Letter of Countess Tolstoy, 3 February 1882, quoted in Henri Troyat: Tolstoy, trans. Nancy Amphoux (New York, 1967), p. 423.
[57. ]Teilhard de Chardin: “The Salvation of Mankind” in Science and Christ, ed. cit., pp. 140–41.
[58. ]“The Planetisation of Mankind,” first publ. 1946, in The Future of Man, paperback ed. cit., pp. 142, 144.
[59. ]There are many points of resemblance between Teilhard’s views about the nature of secular progress and the views expressed in F. S. Marvin’s The Living Past (Oxford, 1913) and A Century of Hope: A Sketch of Western Progress from 1815 to the Great War (Oxford, 1919). The critical comments on Marvin in Robert Shafer: Progress and Science (New Haven, 1922) have more than a little relevance to Teilhard.
[60. ]Teilhard de Chardin: “The Grand Option,” written 3 March 1939, in The Future of Man, ed. cit., p. 48.
[61. ]“Life and the Planets,” first publ. May 1946, in The Future of Man, ed. cit., p. 123.
[62. ]“La Parole attendue” (1940) in Cahiers Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Paris, 1958), No. 4, p. 27 as quoted in Rideau, op. cit., p. 61.
[63. ]Ephesians 1:10.
[64. ]For a lively criticism of Teilhard’s astonishing claim that The Phenomenon of Man is a “scientific” work, see P. B. Medawar: The Art of the Soluble, pp. 71–84.
[* ]Teilhard was not, of course, the first to take this view; we have noted it, in a weaker form, in Kant. It is more explicit in Benjamin Constant’s De la Perfectibilité de l’espèce humaine, first published in his Mélanges, in 1829. If we do not accept the perfectibility of man then, according to Constant, “we ought to close our books, renounce our speculations, free ourselves from fruitless sacrifices, and devote ourselves completely to useful or agreeable acts, which would serve to make less insipid a life without hope and decorate for a moment a life without future.” (Ed. P. Deguise, Lausanne, 1967, p. 42.) Yet the Greeks did not believe in the perfectibility of man and can scarcely be said to have “renounced speculation.” Constant and Teilhard are giving expression to a queer modern attitude, not to a universal state of mind.
[65. ]The Phenomenon of Man, trans. by B. Wall and others (London, 1959), pp. 232–33.