AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

From logos to bios : Hellenic philosophy and evolutionary biology

by Wynand Albertus De Beer

Institution: University of South Africa
Year: 2015
Keywords: Cosmology; Demiurge; Teleology; Soul; Nomogenesis; Orthogenesis; Transformation; Logos
Record ID: 1427347
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10500/18470


This thesis deals with the relation of Hellenic philosophy to evolutionary biology. The first part entails an explication of Hellenic cosmology and metaphysics in its traditional understanding, as the Western component of classical Indo-European philosophy. It includes an overview of the relevant contributions by the Presocratics, Plato, Aristotle, and the Neoplatonists, focusing on the structure and origin of both the intelligible and sensible worlds. Salient aspects thereof are the movement from the transcendent Principle into the realm of Manifestation by means of the interaction between Essence and Substance; the role of the Logos, being the equivalent of Plato’s Demiurge and Aristotle’s Prime Mover, in the cosmogonic process; the interaction between Intellect and Necessity in the formation of the cosmos; the various kinds of causality contributing to the establishment of physical reality; and the priority of being over becoming, which in the case of living organisms entails the primacy of soul over body. The first part of the thesis concludes with a discussion of the implications of Hellenic cosmology and metaphysics for evolutionary biology, including an affirmation of final and formal causality over and against its rejection by the modern scientific project. The second part commences with a delineation of organic form and transformation, emphasizing the mathematical foundations thereof. It continues with a critical consideration of the modern evolutionary theory on both scientific and philosophical grounds. In the process a fundamental distinction is made between micro- and macro-evolution, involving the reshuffling of existing genetic material which is acted upon by natural selection, and the production of new genetic material by means of macro-mutations, respectively. In the remainder of the thesis the macro-evolutionary process is described as mainly lawful, directed and convergent, instead of contingent, undirected and divergent as postulated in the modern evolutionary synthesis. This approach does not preclude the recognition of exceptions, due to the limitation of Intellect by Necessity – that is to say, of teleology by mechanism.