Philosophical theorists discussed include Aristotle ('Nichomachean Ethics'), Rousseau ('Social Contract'), Hobbes ('Leviathan') and Karl Marx ('Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts').
The writer presents the societal influences of commerce on individuals and nations and how they contributed to the theories postulated by Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Alfred Marshall, Thorstein Veblen, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes.
page 282) the work on the dialectic of nature for which Engels was making preparatory studies from 1873 onwards and which the death of Marx (1883) prevented him from completing.(1) Marx, Engels and Darwin.
Marx wanted to see the working class free itself from class exploitation through its own political efforts and establish an free, creative association of men and women while Darwin wanted an understanding of the natural world free from obscurantist superstition.
As Marx had discovered the law of development in human history so Darwin had discovered the law of development in organic nature, delivering the death-blow to teleology and mechanical determinism, furnishing proof of the dialectic of accident and necessity and giving the basis in natural science for the marxist theory of history.
On the other hand, it is not clear that liberals like Harris have anything to fear from the revival of social Darwinism. To him the word "genetic" implies fatalism. He once declared rhetorically "Surely no one would want to suggest that these alternative forms of political economy [band, tribe, state] are merely prepro- grammed points on a genetically controlled evolutionary scale."39 But Harris him- self believes that the evolutionary scale is controlled, rather tightly it would appear, by a combination of cultural choices and biological drives, which is indis- tinguishable from what Darwinian psychologists now think.
But there is clearly a more important reason for Harris's rejection of neo- Darwinism. Harris has always regarded the Marxist dialectic and its utopian promises as mystical nonsense, and he has never linked his scholarship to any particular political program in the way Jared Diamond preaches against "racism," but he has always hoped that cultural materialism will make a contri- bution to progressive social change. He has said it inevitably contributes to a rad- ical critique of the status quo. He sees the ultimate purpose of his work as help- ing human beings to gain control over their cultural evolution, to turn the uncon- scious process of cultural selection into a conscious process. To do this we must raise consciousness to new levels: we must understand that cultural evolution is completely distinct from biological evolution, and we must comprehend the true material causes of cultural change, ridding ourselves of false beliefs about the power of ideas.
I hope I have successfully illustrated the wide reach of Darwin’s ideas. Yes, he established a philosophy of biology by introducing the time factor, by demonstrating the importance of chance and contingency, and by showing that theories in evolutionary biology are based on concepts rather than laws. But furthermore—and this is perhaps Darwin’s greatest contribution—he developed a set of new principles that influence the thinking of every person: the living world, through evolution, can be explained without recourse to supernaturalism; essentialism or typology is invalid, and we must adopt population thinking, in which all individuals are unique (vital for education and the refutation of racism); natural selection, applied to social groups, is indeed sufficient to account for the origin and maintenance of altruistic ethical systems; cosmic teleology, an intrinsic process leading life automatically to ever greater perfection, is fallacious, with all seemingly teleological phenomena explicable by purely material processes; and determinism is thus repudiated, which places our fate squarely in our own evolved hands.
Kin selection and reciprocal helpfulness in particular will be greatly favored in a social group. Such selection for altruism has been demonstrated in recent years to be widespread among many other social animals. One can then perhaps encapsulate the relation between ethics and evolution by saying that a propensity for altruism and harmonious cooperation in social groups is favored by natural selection. The old thesis of social Darwinism—strict selfishness—was based on an incomplete understanding of animals, particularly social species.
Hallpike was as opposed to sociobiology as he was to cultural materialism, and did not believe anthropology needs any grand functionalist explanations, Darwinian or otherwise. I would not follow him there. Harris's argument from the parallel and converging nature of cultural evolution seems to me a sound one. Culture really does have an evolution, not just a history, and some kinds of func- tional adaptations really have evolved. Nevertheless, there are enough lacunae in Harris's theory to leave him vulnerable to the charge of presenting a low-grade organicist explanation. The solution seems obvious. Why not a genuine Darwin- ian explanation?
We now know, however, that in a social species not only the individual must be considered—an entire social group can be the target of selection. Darwin applied this reasoning to the human species in 1871 in The Descent of Man. The survival and prosperity of a social group depends to a large extent on the harmonious cooperation of the members of the group, and this behavior must be based on altruism. Such altruism, by furthering the survival and prosperity of the group, also indirectly benefits the fitness of the group’s individuals. The result amounts to selection favoring altruistic behavior.