Evolution and Ethics: Delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, by Thomas Henry Huxley

By Thomas Henry Huxley

In 1893, the biologist and educator Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) released the textual content of a public lecture on ethics and evolutionary concept. He opens Evolution and Ethics with the tale of Jack and the Bean Stalk as a metaphor for cyclical evolution-the small seed that turns into a mature plant. Huxley then takes the reader on a trip via culturally assorted trust structures Buddhism and Greek highbrow proposal - to demonstrate human makes an attempt to appreciate the 'cosmic process'. Huxley outlines the expansion of differing recommendations of justice as populations grew to become extra organised, and the way diverse societies handled the data that nature is unjust. Huxley abhors the cruel purposes of Darwin's paintings to society and decries the 'gladiatorial concept of existence'. Arguing opposed to the concept that of social Darwinism, Huxley proposes that moral behaviour needs to counteract the painful results of the 'struggle for survival' to ensure that society to development.

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Additional info for Evolution and Ethics: Delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, May 18, 1893

Example text

The Ionian intellectual movement does not stand alone. It is only one of several sporadic indications of the working of some powerful mental ferment over the whole of the area comprised between the iEgean and northern Hindostan during the eighth, seventh, and sixth centuries before our era. In these three hundred years, prophetism attained its apogee among the Semites of Palestine; Zoroasterism grew and became the creed of a conquering race, the Iranic Aryans ; Buddhism rose and spread with marvellous rapidity among the Aryans of Hindostan; while scientific naturalism took its rise among the Aryans of Ionia.

If this were the best of 26 EVOLUTION AND ETHICS all possible worlds, it nevertheless proved itself a very inconvenient habitation for the ideal sage. The stoical summary of the whole duty of man, ' Live according to nature,' would seem to imply that the cosmic process is an exemplar for human conduct. Ethics would thus become applied Natural History. In fact, a confused employment of the maxim, in this sense, has done immeasurable mischief in later times. It has furnished an axiomatic foundation for the philosophy of philosophasters and for the moralizing of sentimentalists.

Nor does there now seem to be any question about the large indebtedness of Greek art to that of Chaldsea and that of Egypt. But the manner of that indebtedness is very instructive. The obligation is clear, but its limits are no less definite. Nothing better exemplifies the indomitable originality of the Greeks than the relations of their art to that of the Orientals. Far from being subdued into mere imitators by the technical excellence of their teachers, they lost no time in bettering the instruction they received, using their models as mere stepping stones on the way to those unsurpassed and unsurpassable achievements which are all their own.

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