Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 4 (Charles Darwin)

Darwin, Charles
The Origin of Species

Purchased in graduate school for a course taught by Elizabeth Grosz called something like, "Being and Becoming." Grosz only taught at Buffalo for a couple of years, but she quickly developed a huge following because of her unbelievably brilliant lectures on philosophy.

I recall she drew a line that ran from Darwin to Nietzsche to Bergson to Deleuze (fitness - eternal return - duration - difference & repetition) and that it was pretty thrilling to listen as she wove it all together each week. She presented Darwin's theories as far more radical than they are taught even by well meaning college professors.

I once tried discussin Charles Olson with her. I was saying I thought his concept of history was copacetic with the kinds of history we were discussing in class. She'd never read Olson, but after a couple of sentences she stopped me and said, "That's exactly the kind of history I am going to be arguing against in this course." I still think I was right, but it's hard to argue with a philosopher with an argument.

the final paragraph of Origin:

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

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