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Philosophy, Animality and the Life Sciences$
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Wahida Khandker

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748676774

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748676774.001.0001

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Forces of Nature:

Forces of Nature:

Evolution, Divergence, Decimation

(p.12) 1. Forces of Nature
Philosophy, Animality and the Life Sciences

Wahida Khandker

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter outlines Henri Bergson's theory of vital ‘tendency’ and the diversity of life as the ‘goal’ of the élan vital, in the light of leading proponents of transmutation both before and after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. Entailed in Bergson's complementary theories of life and of knowledge is the constant risk of the failure to create new lines of activity and thought. In both organic evolution and the evolution of ideas, there is a tendency to fall into habitual, that is, pathological, modes of expression. Thus, included in Bergson's re-inscribed taxonomy of animal life in terms of tendencies are the negative or destructive tendencies towards pathology and decimation of populations. Resonances with this way of thinking about the simultaneously creative and destructive evolution of life are also explored in the work of the evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould.

Keywords:   evolution, decimation, diversity, tendency, Henri Bergson, Stephen Jay Gould

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