Wednesday, 19 November 2014

This may come as a surprise

Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and the evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is preferable to what we call evil than we had before.
As a claim about the limits of natural history, this is conventional enough. But the author may come as a surprise: Thomas Henry Huxley, in the second Romanes lecture, in Oxford, 1893. H/T Gertrude Himmelfarb, “Evolution and Ethics, Revisited,” The New Atlantis, Number 42, Spring 2014, pp. 81–87.

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