Philosophy of Evolution: Society

The Level of Certitude


Social Evolution Is Unlikely,
But Equivocal

The purpose of this section of the dissertation is to assess the minimum level of certitude for the thesis proposed, with an additional comment of any suspected higher level of certitude. There are various levels of certitude that can be chosen. Opinion is defined as intellectual assent (or disagreement) given to one part of a contradiction with fear of the opposite.117 Possibility is defined as the capacity for existence for a concrete possible thing: internally, that its constituent characteristics are not impossible, and additionally externally possible, if there is power to produce the thing.118 Probability, also called likelihood, is defined as the weight of motives, or the accumulation of serious motives, for prudent assent to some proposition, which is intrinsic probability if the motive arises from the nature of the thing, and can be extrinsic probability if the motive is from authority, which can also suppose the internal motive.119 Summary of Probabilities is defined as an accumulation of probable arguments, considered according to their force, which results from a mere juxtaposition. Convergence of Probabilities is defined as an accumulation of probabilities which converge to produce a sufficient reason. Moral certitude is defined as firm assent to one part of a contradiction whose necessity arises from the moral law in the physical (not ethical) sense, e.g., every mother instinctively loves. Physical certitude is defined as firm assent to one part of a contradiction whose necessity arises from the very physical nature of the thing, e.g., the law of gravity. Metaphysical certitude is defined as firm assent to one part of a contradiction whose necessity arises from metaphysical necessity, e.g., my own existence.120

Certitude could arise from some observable fact or experiment. However, there is no experiment to prove evolution.121 However, some restricted observation of evolution is possible within species.122 Social evolution is unlikely due to the observation of general freedom and liberty of action in society; Calcagno argues:123 An opinion ought to be held as true, if the opinion is constantly and universally admitted by the whole human race; if the opinion does not originate from some erroneous cause; and above all if the opinion is consonant with the principles of reason. But free will is such an opinion, and even the Determinists, who speculatively deny liberty, practically act in a way that exhibits belief in free will, such acquiring material goods, striving for rewards, and speaking of virtue and vice. Therefore, free will in many human activities is proved by the testimony of common sense.

Certitude could arise from some philosophical explanation that exists. Explanations were given by several Neo-Scholastics: Benignus, Calcagno, Gredt, and others.

Certitude could arise if the argumentation was based on some philosophical principles.

The principle of causality needs to be invoked, in so far as the effect is proportionate to the cause,124 when it is argued a priori that "from the proper character of rational nature itself, free will necessarily follows."125 Further, the character of the rational nature itself is the actual sufficient reason, if "free will necessarily follows"; thus the principle of sufficient reason is also involved in this a priori argument.

Certitude could arise if the explanation is sufficient, due to the principle of sufficient reason. Calcagno gives a sufficient reason when he argues, a priori, that free will "necessarily" follows from the very character of rational nature.126 Calcagno in addition argues a posteriori from the testimony of consciousness and from the testimony of common sense.127 This double argument supplies sufficient theoretical reasons, and a sufficient argument from observation of self and the world.

Certitude could arise if the explanation was rooted in St. Thomas Aquinas, thereby being faithful to tradition. St. Thomas teaches free will and human liberty, saying, "Of the actions done by man, only those are called human which are properly of man in so far as human. Man differs from irrational creatures in this that man is the master of his own acts. Whence these actions are called properly human, of which man is the master. It is man who is the master of his actions by reason and will; whence free will is called a faculty of the will and reason. Therefore, those actions are called properly human which proceed from a deliberate will. Any other acts that arise from man are able to be called ‘acts of man’ but not properly human acts, since they are not from man in so far as he is human" (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1-2. 1. 1).128

Certitude could arise if Neo-Scholastics agree that social evolution is unlikely. Klubertanz notes that "Psychological determinism rests on an equivocation in the term ‘the greater good’."129

Certitude could arise due to recent scientific confirmation by convergent scientific arguments from the fields of biology and sociology itself which seem to indicate that social evolution is unlikely. Sociobiology is often criticized on the grounds that its explanatory hypotheses are not easily verified, or that these hypotheses contain assumptions that are conventional, unexamined or impossible. For example, some assumptions are just the natural patterns of behavior of human beings.130 Another criticism of Sociobiology arises from the inclination of social scientists to offer functional explanations of social phenomena.131 A functional explanation of a social feature is defined as some factor that explains the presence and persistence of the feature in terms of the beneficial consequences the feature has for the ongoing working of the social system as a whole. This type of explanation is one that is based on an analogy between biology and sociology. Biologists explain species traits in terms of reproductive fitness. Social scientists are at times inclined to explain social traits in terms of "social" fitness. However, the analogy is misleading because the biological mechanism is not present at all in the social realm. By natural selection, the species obtains traits that are locally optimal. There is no analogous mechanism at work in the social realm. Finally, Nogar notes that the hypothesis of Sociobiology is arbitrary and has no scientific claim to validity.132

Certitude could arise if the opposite opinion is not tenable. But the opposite opinion is not tenable, since even the Determinists, who speculatively deny liberty, practically act in a way that exhibits belief in free will, such acquiring material goods, striving for rewards, and speaking of virtue and vice.133 Further, St. Thomas asserts that the opinion of the Determinists is untenable, an extravagant opinion (Aquinas De Malo 6).134 Benignus and Hugon argued against Metaphysical Determinism. Hugon argued against Scientific Determinism. Benignus argued against Physical Determinism, especially John B. Watson. Benignus and Hugon argued against Physiological Determinism, especially the contemporary Naturalists. Benignus, Hugon and Palmes argued against Psychological Determinism, especially Sigmund Freud and the "unconscious."

Certitude could arise if the objections of adversaries are able to be answered.135

OBJECTION: If a falling rock were conscious, it would think itself free to fall. REPLY: The similarity is denied, since inorganic things are not free.

OBJECTION: Liberty arises from ignorance of our motive. REPLY: The less we know the motive of our actions, the greater the persuasion of liberty.

OBJECTION: Drunkards feel free. REPLY: Liberty is not a feeling alone, but a judgement.

OBJECTION: In hypnosis, freedom can be suggested. REPLY: Persons in hypnosis are not free.

OBJECTION: The argument for common agreement assumes liberty. REPLY: The common agreement argument arises from the "experience" of the fact of liberty, not the assumption.

OBJECTION: Criminals are guilty without liberty. REPLY: Real guilt demands moral freedom.

OBJECTION: Laws destroy liberty. REPLY: Laws can be freely followed to integrate society.

OBJECTION: The intellect is necessitated by imperfect truth. REPLY: The will is different.

OBJECTION: Intellectual presentation negates liberty. REPLY: Only for the highest good.

OBJECTION: God predestines everything. REPLY: God leaves man free.

OBJECTION: Science knows the future. REPLY: The inorganic world in not free.

OBJECTION: Statistics show uniformity. REPLY: But "necessity" is not shown by statistics.

OBJECTION: Temperament limits freedom. REPLY: It limits but does not destroy.

OBJECTION: Motive destroys liberty. REPLY: Motives are partial, multiple, even impossible.

OBJECTION: Civil societies evolve uniformly.136 REPLY: There is no strict uniformity in the evolution of civil society, since there are in fact very many differences among various peoples. However, some uniformity not only must be accepted, but must be expected, since all men are of the same species and therefore seek the same goods as desirable. Do not infer from some similarities that there is a necessity in the mode of operation of societies. The uniformity in the mode of operation is explained from the identity of nature in all humanity, so that there is a propensity for some actions, which should not then be labeled as necessitated.

OBJECTION: Social evolution is unconscious.137 REPLY: The assertion is gratuitous.

OBJECTION: Society is determined by DNA.138 REPLY: Rational operations have only extrinsic dependence on the senses. Further, actively, the will needs some good presented to it by the intellect in order to choose; and passively, there is no other rational principle besides the intellect and will, both of which are detected by introspection, while no other principle is detected.

Certitude can be had from the possibility of philosophers and theologians admitting this mode of origin without damage to their other beliefs. Neo-Scholastic philosophers agree with the second argument of Calcagno, which he takes from St. Thomas (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1-2. 13. 6), from the way in which the intellect presents good to the will. This same argument is used by Pope Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Libertas, as noted in the journal La CiviltB Cattolica.139 Hugon notes that the Catholic Chuch always strongly safeguarded the doctrine of human liberty.140

Certitude can be had from the fact that "social evolution is unlikely, but equivocal" is the best answer now for social analysis.141 St. Thomas makes a distinction between a "verified" universal (dici de omni) and a "provisional" universal (ut nunc).142 This provisional universal, within a working hypothesis, is very useful in the investigation of nature. An example of a verified universal (dici de omni) is that in a right triangle every right angle has ninety degrees. An example of a provisional universal (ut nunc) is "white" predicated as a common property of swans, or evolution predicated as the common property of every origin of species. The example of the right triangle is a property based on certain (propter quid) demonstration. The example of the white swans is based on an incomplete (quo) induction, since the reporters had never seen a black swan. Thus, social evolution not predicated as the common property of every society.143

The level of certitude for "social evolution is unlikely" is at minimum at the level of the metaphysically certain. The proof is the principle of sufficient reason in the arguments in favor of free will and freedom. Further, the convergence of all of the above arguments are proof, especially the fulfillment of the principle of sufficient reason. This agrees with the opinion of Palmes who states that the existence of free will is "entirely certain" (omnino certam).144 Further the opinion of the Determinists was specifically rejected, including Scientific, Physical, Physiological, and Psychological Determinists. Social evolution is unlikely if its root, Determinism, is rejected. Nogar argues that the hypothesis of Sociobiology is an arbitrary assumption.145

Having come to the correct conclusion on the philosophical level of certitude, the philosopher must still conclude with some humility. The philosophy of nature does not disregard the objects observed and perceived by sense.146 This is the method of Aristotle and St. Thomas.147 Observation can discern some limits on free will and liberty, which does not contradict the general view that endorses personal and social freedom of development.148 The soul in its rational and voluntary life is affected by feelings egoistic, altruistic, intellectual, aesthetic, and ethical, and also by pathology.149

Author:  John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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