Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Philosophy of Evolution: Philosophic Judgement Problem

The Problem

Home
Problem
Links

PROBLEM WITH PHILOSOPHIC JUDGMENT

Can the concepts of "evolution" and "fact" be joined together in a philosophic judgment?1 For most of the twentieth century there were philosophic problems with the term "evolution" that prevented evolution as it is in itself to be immediately recognized as the same evolution apprehended as factual.2 First, there is the problem of the essential union of philosophy and science, which essential union was denied by Maritain. Second, there is a problem of the admission of extensive material facts into judgments based on just a few philosophic principles. Third, the philosophical determination of substantial quality, like species, is a problem. Fourth, the philosophical determination of substantial change, becoming species, is a problem. Fifth, the philosophical determination of the extent of evolution is a problem. Sixth, there is a common mistake of trying to "imagine" formal and material causality of species in terms of the efficient cause. Seventh, a philosophic problem arises when imagination tends to equate "creation" as a kind of evolutionary change. Eighth, a philosophic problem may arise when the essence of sensible things is either merely imagined, or merely reduced to mathematics without reference to the real things. Ninth, problems in philosophical judgment can arise particularly in the area of the philosophy of man. Tenth, the effect of these changes in judgment were reflected in a change in judgment that evolution was a fact, as illustrated by changes at the Gregorian University in Rome.

First, is there an essential union between philosophy and science? The Neo-Scholastics had to answer new problems, like Evolutionism, that had not been treated in the prior scholastic philosophy of nature (cosmology and rational psychology), and so some of the formal principles of philosophy (finality, chance, space, and time) had to be enlarged in new application. In the light of these new problems of science, Jacques Maritain called for a deep renovation of philosophy of nature. He maintained that there was an essential distinction between philosophy and science.3 Aristotle, however, held that natural philosophy and empirical science are one, since both treat mobile being and each is a part of the other.4 The Aristotelian position eventually prevailed in the position of Mondin at the Urbaniana University5, Selvaggi at the Gregorian University6 and the Dominican priests at the Aquinas Institute in River Forest, Illinois, near Chicago.7 The Aquinas Institute is also the location of the Albertus Magnus Lyceum, dedicated to the working dialogue between Neo-Scholastic Thomism and empirical science.8 Therefore, the essential unity of philosophy and science is proved by opinion (Mondin and Selvaggi) and institutions (Aquinas Institute and Albertus Magnus Lyceum). It is also proved by the 2002 Congress in Rome on Evolutionism. Fourthly, proof of the unity of philosophy and science arises from change in the way the Neo-Scholastics raised the treatment of Evolutionism from an appendix to the level of serious treatment as an important part of the philosophy of nature, or even a whole course.9

Second, what is the function and extent of the material content of the philosophy of nature? Although there is essential unity between philosophy and science, there is no essential "identity" between philosophy and science, but rather a specific distinction with an intimate connection. This means that the philosophy of nature is not purely physics on the first level of abstraction, nor is it purely metaphysics on the third level of abstraction, but a "mixed science" which applies metaphysical principles to physical (biological in the case of evolution, for example) and mathematical objects.10 Aquinas notes the possibility of such a science, a philosophy of nature, which is the application of the formal principles to the material subject, an applied metaphysics.11 This position was first introduced to the Neo-Scholastics by Liberatore and has been accepted by many: Zigliara, Palmieri, De Backer, De San, Descoqs, Haen, Donat – and more recently by Hoenen, De Raeymaeher, Dezza, Morn, Esser, Massi, Van Melsen, and Koren, although no explicit mention is made about the Thomistic doctrine of mixed sciences, which seems to be implicit in their words and definitions. Selvaggi at the Gregorian University applies this position in his 1962 book., Cosmologia.12 However, the full application can be seen in the 1999 student text-book of La Vecchia at the Gregorian University, Evoluzione e FinalitB, in which there is expanded material of science, no need for ecclesiastical approval for new science, report in the vernacular language of science, material from scientific journals and from dialogue with scientists, and an entire course on the material facts of evolution, with a special reference to human evolution13

Third, problems in philosophical judgment can arise from philosophical difficulties in the determination of substantial qualities, like species. There is diversity between plants and animals. However, there is some order. Systematic order involves individuals, races, species, genera, families, orders, classes, and phyla. Natural species are diverse by nature, and are essential qualities from the soul. Natural varieties arise from merely accidental differences in qualities. However, it is often difficult to tell which qualities are essential and which are accidental.14 Therefore, it is not always easy to determine which systematic species are natural and which are not.

Fourth, problems in philosophical judgment can arise from philosophical difficulties in determining substantial change, like becoming species. For Aristotle, substantial change was obvious, such as the birth and death of a living thing or chemical changes, especially when they show a marked difference in operation after the change.15 But "as for knowing whether this or that variation in the physical appearance of a thing denotes a substantial change, this is usually most difficult if not impossible."16

Fifth, problems in philosophical judgment can arise from philosophical difficulties in determining the extent of evolution. Evolutionism, generally considered, teaches that more perfect organisms have their origin by progress from lesser organisms and ultimately from (one or) many most simple organisms. Biological Evolutionism mainly treats plants and animals. Neo-Scholastics frequently restrict their approval of evolution to minor (accidental, and not substantial) transformations and also polyphyletic (more than one primitive life form, and not monophyletic) evolution within zoological and botanical gernera and families.17

Sixth, there is a common mistake of trying to "imagine" formal and material causality of the species in terms of the efficient cause. The reason for this mistake is that persons do at times experience the manifestation of an action by the agent, whereas no sensible experience can bring a realization of the material and formal causality.18 This is important since that transcendental interaction of prime matter and substantial form enters in to the explanation of evolution.

Seventh, a philosophic problem arises when imagination tends to equate "creation" as a kind of evolutionary change or some distinct event. Creation cannot be imagined since there is no term (terminus a quo) from which something arises, and change demands: a term from which (terminus a quo), privation, and a term to which (terminus ad quem). Creation is not some distinct event, but it is the continuing complete causing of the existence of everything that is.19 Creation is a subject for metaphysics and theology, and not for the natural sciences.

Eighth, a philosophic problem may arise when the essence of sensible things is either merely imagined, or merely reduced to mathematics without reference to the real things.20 The danger arises in a possible inaccurate return to the real world.

Ninth, problems in philosophical judgment can arise particularly in the area of the philosophy of man.21 The philosophy of human nature is an organized, unified and certain knowledge about the nature of man, derived from experience and through an analysis of his activities, characteristics, and powers.22 However, although all psychologists are working towards a complete science of man, ever since the time of the Humanists there has been an artificial, unreal concept of man.23 Some Neo-Scholastic philosophers, who admit the concept of universal evolution, are reluctant to extend evolution to the body of man.24 On the other hand, other Neo-Scholastics point out the need for studying the nature of knowledge, even if there are some considerations of knowledge that go beyond what is needed for the discovery of the nature of man.25 During the Darwin Centennial in Chicago there was a radical change in the concept of evolution as applied to man, especially as regards man’s cultural evolution in the future.26

Tenth, as a result of changes in the nature of philosophy, there were changes in Neo-Scholastic views on evolution. It seems that more conservative views on Evolutionism are affirmed earlier in the twentieth century. More liberal and more evolutionary views are held by Neo-Scholastic philosophers at the end of the twentieth century. The truth of this change can be verified by a short survey of the positions of the philosophers at the Gregorian University in Rome. Calcagno in 1937 rejected the evolution of species.27 Calcagno also rejects the evolution of man in any way. Boyer in 1939 denied evolution from one species to another, and denied the evolution of the body of man.28 Boyer did acknowledge the Neanderthal Man as human, due to the use of tools and fire.29 Dezza in 1960 affirmed that the philosophic position of theistic evolution was not impossible with natural species, but affirmed grave scientific problems.30 It is notable that Dezza is waiting for more scientific results, the material part of the philosophy of nature for scientific induction as promoted by the work of Selvaggi at the Gregorian University.31 Marcozzi in 1958 maintained that all the prehistoric men who have spiritual manifestations have a soul entirely similar to our own. Marcozzi also maintains that Neanderthal Man falls into the category of true man.32 The manifestations that Marcozzi is looking for are some indication of abstract principles of thought and also language.33 At first, La Vecchia admits the possibility of the evolutionary process, at least within the lower groups of taxonomy. The scope of her presentation is to distinguish the finalistic from the non-finalistic types of Evolutionism. Then La Vecchia argues to an evident biological evolution in all living things, which culminates in man.34

In conclusion, there is a negative philosophical judgement dividing "evolution" from "fact." If we consider the judgement, "The snow is white," whiteness in the snow as apprehended can be immediately verified in the snow as it is outside the mind. There are a number of philosophical reasons preventing the immediate philosophical judgement, "Evolution is fact," since evolution as apprehended cannot be immediately verified in evolution as it is outside the mind.

 

Author: John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
Copyright 2009 by The Genealogist, 3236 Lincoln, Franklin Park, IL 60131 U.S.A.