Philosophy of Evolution: Possibility


Philosophy of Evolution:
The Twentieth Century Neo-Scholastic Approach
John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.


The dissertation will have three parts: analytic, heuristic, and synthetic.1

The first, and analytic, part will be a survey of literature covering 120 Neo-Scholastic philosophers of the twentieth century, with sixteen philosophers from the Gregorian University in Rome, eleven at other Roman universities and academies, thirteen from France, eight of German extraction, two from Ireland, ten from Italy, thirty-eight from North America, one from Poland, four from South America, seven from Spain, and nine from the Vatican. The special emphasis on the Gregorian University is to test and describe the development of philosophy concerning evolution among an inter-acting group of Neo-Scholastics. Analysis of a number of philosophers is warranted because of the multiple implications of evolution, because of the desire to avoid reductionism, and because the problem is not an easy one.2

The second, or heuristic, part will attempt to discover problems in terminology, problems in judgment from the point of view of both philosophy and science, problems with reasoning concerning the proof of evolution, and problems with belief and ideology. These problems will be discovered from the survey of literature as preliminary conclusions.3

The third, or synthetic, part of the dissertation will be the development of a philosophy course with reference to the views on evolution by Neo-Scholastic philosophers.4 Thirteen theses or propositions to be proved are listed below in three categories:

Evolution Philosophically:

1. Evolutionism is philosophically possible.

2. Evolutionism needs some concept of purpose.

3. Evolutionism is incompatible with Mechanicism.

4. Evolutionism is incompatible with Materialism.

5. Evolutionism is compatible with Hylemorphism.

Evolution of Man:

6. Certainly, man is essentially different from other animals.

7. Possibly, the human body has evolved.

8. Certainly, the human soul has not evolved.

9. Future biological evolution of man is unlikely, and equivocal.

Evolution as Fruitful Idea:

10. Evolutionary abiogenesis is probable, but equivocal.

11. Cosmic evolution is possible, but equivocal.

12. Social evolution is unlikely, but equivocal.

13. Atheistic evolution is impossible, and equivocal.

Thus, questions will be raised and answered concerning three categories: concerning the philosophy of evolution itself, concerning the evolution of man, and concerning the fruitfulness of the idea of evolution. First, relative to each thesis in this proposed course of philosophy, an attempt will be made to give the state of the question in terms of history. Then the participants in the dialogue, or opponents, will be noted. Thirdly, definitions and divisions of terms will be considered. Fourth, the question needing a reply will be proposed. Fifth, an attempt will be made to give some philosophical foundations for each thesis from St. Thomas Aquinas; although it is clear that a twelfth century philosopher and theologian did not directly treat the issue of evolution which arose in the middle of the nineteenth century. Sixth, some attempt will be made to prove each thesis philosophically in terms familiar to all Neo-Scholastics. Finally, some attempt will be made to assess the level of certitude of each of the thirteen theses, since some statements are proposed in a more serious way that others.

Interest by the Public, by Scientists, and by Philosophers

One of the first facts someone wishes to know about a thing is: where did it come from? It is no wonder, then, that biological evolution, with over one hundred years of publicity behind it, has become a household word.5 This general and lively public interest has been nurtured by continual scientific discoveries that confirm or critique evolution.6

Biological evolution has also become an issue of research for leaders in science, and an object of debate in politics, education, and religion from the time of Darwin’s work. There has been sharp debate, necessary and unnecessary public discussion about the consequences of Darwin’s idea of common descent, especially as his theory touched upon the origin of man, at which point the term "evolution" began to take on rhetorical overtones.7

In reaction to contemporary discoveries in science, there has been a demand for new texts in philosophy. The Neo-Scholastic treatment of the philosophy of nature and its relation to the old Scholastic traditions and principles in view of contemporary natural science have created new discussions and a need for a new presentation.8

Note #1:  Footnotes have been omitted in this text to allow for the whole dissertation to be presented, and to allow for a better flow of text.  However, in the interest of scholarship, the location of the footnotes has been preserved.  Scholars interested in particular material should contact the publisher and copyright holder, The Genealogist, 3236 Lincoln, Franklin Park, IL 60131   U.S.A.
Note #2:  The thesis on the possibiltiy of evolution is the fundamental thesis, with the question: "Does evolution happen?"  The complimentary thesis, also fundamental, concerns the necessity of finality in evolution, with the question: "How does evolution happen philosophically?"  This second thesis on prupose and finality is presented next.

 Author:  John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
Copyright 2008 by The Genealogist, 3236 Lincoln Avenue, Franklin Park, IL 60131 U.S.A.