Prichard on species 2

James Prichard wrote his Researches into the physical history of mankind in 1813, in which he argued not only that humanity was a single species (a view called monogenism), but that they were effectively the same in their intelligence and faculties. In the course of this, he spoke repeatedly about what counted as a species. In the Read More…

Species Rewrite

I’m thinking of doing a rewrite of Species: A History of the Idea. Do my readers have any suggestions or wishes for it? Let me know in the comments. Some ideas: Make the subtitle and the content: The History and Philosophy of the Idea More stuff on the 15th century More on the modern debates More Read More…

The Triumph of Stupidity

The following essay was written by Bertrand Russell in 1933. I have changed the names of the countries and made some minor amendments to make it applicable to today: What has been happening in America is a matter of the gravest portent for the whole civilised world. Throughout the last hundred and fifty years, individual Read More…

The History of Life: Aristotle’s explanations

Causes Aristotle is (in)famous for his four causes, although they are better thought of as types of explanations. They are usually given standard names, but to make them a bit clearer, I’ll give some simpler  names first (just as Aristotle did in Greek). Composed-of (the material cause): the properties something has due to the material Read More…

The History of Life: Aristotle – Underlying philosophy

Plato’s pupil, and later Alexander the Great’s tutor, Aristotle was born in Stagira in Macedonia in 384 BCE (died 322 BCE), and is sometimes known as the “Stagirite” in older writings. His activity was mostly in Athens, where he studied with Plato, and where he set up a school after Plato’s death, where he and Read More…

The History of Life: Before Aristotle 4 – Plato and the birth of design

As we have seen, Greek thought before Aristotle tended to fall into two broad camps on the nature of life. One (the Milesians and Atomists) held that life could be explained more or less naturally based on the parts of organisms, and the other (the Eleatics and Pythagoreans) that empirical evidence was insufficient, and that Read More…

The History of Life: Before Aristotle 3 – The Four Elements

The Four Elements (Empedocles) Empedocles (ca. 495–435 BCE), who lived in Sicily, was influenced both by the Pythagoreans and Parmenides (in his poem “On Nature”) and proposed what came to be called the “four elements” theory to explain why there was change if the universe was monistic. It was just recombination of eternal and unchanging elements (he called Read More…