Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/50

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

reviewing the book, therefore, Kant was naturally led to touch upon the subject of organic evolution. The passage runs as follows:

As for the graded scale (Stufenleiter) of organisms, one can not so severely reproach the author because it will not consent to extend far enough to match those conceptions of his which reach far beyond the limits of this world. For the use of it even in relation to the kingdom of nature here on earth likewise leads to nothing. The slightness of the degrees of difference between species is, since the number of species is so great, a necessary consequence of their number. But a relationship between them—such that one species should originate from another and all from one original species, or that all should spring from the teeming womb of a universal Mother—this would lead to ideas so monstrous that the reason shrinks from before them with a shudder. Such ideas can not with justice be imputed to our author.

It is surely one of the humorous incidents in the history of science that more than one grave historian should have found, in the writings of this very period when Kant repudiated evolutionism with the tremulous emotion of a child frightened by a hobgoblin, the idea of evolution playing "the same rôle as in contemporary science."

5. The Essay "On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy"—To the title of this article, published in 1788, the contents do not altogether closely correspond.[1] Part of it is, indeed, a prelude to the examination of the conception of purposiveness in nature given two years later in the "Kritik of Judgment"; but a greater part consists in a defence of the theories of his two papers on the idea of race against certain critics. For the purposes of the present inquiry those theories have already been sufficiently expounded. But it is worth while noting that, in the case of one of his critics, Forster, Kant supposed himself to be confronted with a definite evolutionary theory, upon which he felt obliged to pass judgment. The articles of what Kant understood to be Forster's "system" were these:

The earth in travail, giving birth to animals and plants from her pregnant womb, fertilized by the sea-slime; a consequent multiplicity of local originations of organic species, Africa having its own separate species of men (the negroes), Asia another, and so on; as a deduction from these assumptions, the relationship of all organic species in an imperceptibly graded series, from man to the whale, and so backward (conjecturally even to the lichens and mosses)—and a relationship not of similarity merely, but of actual derivation from a common stock."[2]
  1. There is a reference to the species question in a fragment in the "Lose Blätter" (I., 137 f.), assigned by Reicke to 1787. This is probably merely a draft for part of the essay here considered. The fragment is in the usual vein; Kant speaks in it, for example, of "the inconceivable constancy of species, in the midst of so many causes affecting them and modifying their development."
  2. Kant's language clearly seems to ascribe these ideas to Forster, but quite without justification from anything in Forster's article. So far from fathering this system, Forster mentions it as an example of an over-ambitious hypothesis, beyond the reach of verification by man, and therefore beyond the limits of true science ("Teutsche Merkur," 1786, pp. 57-86, 150-166). And in his "Kleine