March 28, 2021

1. Schopenhauer and Evolution

I read an essay by A. O. Lovejoy, who was a pioneer in the field of intellectual history. The essay is called “Schopenhauer as an Evolutionist” (1911). Since I’m interested in Schopenhauer, evolution, Lovejoy, and intellectual history, I couldn’t ignore the essay. (I discussed Lovejoy’s book The Great Chain of Being (1936) about twelve years ago.)

Lovejoy says that Schopenhauer began his career as a believer in static species, but ended his career as a believer in evolving species. Schopenhauer was apparently converted to evolution by reading Lamarck, and by reading Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), by Robert Chambers. Like Chambers, Schopenhauer viewed the evolution of species as part of something larger, as part of the evolution of the cosmos as a whole — stars, planets, mountains, valleys, everything. (I mentioned Chambers’ book in an earlier issue. I also mentioned that the great geologist Charles Lyell, a contemporary of Schopenhauer’s, began his career as a believer in static species, but ended his career as a believer in evolving species.)

Schopenhauer always stressed the importance of the Will; he believed that Will was the most important factor in the universe. He believed that, in man, the Will can be called a Life Force, a Will to Live. The Will is always on the move, always striving for something. I’m reminded of Whitman’s lines,

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

Schopenhauer’s conception of the Will would seem to lead naturally to the idea of evolution. Lovejoy thinks it’s surprising that Schopenhauer didn’t come to the idea of continual evolution sooner. As late as 1844, when Schopenhauer was 56, he still clung to the view that a species was a manifestation of a Platonic Idea. As a Platonic idea is eternal, so a species (in Schopenhauer’s view) is unchanging, though it can go extinct “upon any one planet.”

But something happened in 1844 that would alter Schopenhauer’s view of evolution: Vestiges was published. Schopenhauer was converted to a belief in evolution. Lovejoy is surprised that historians of philosophy, even those who devote books to Schopenhauer, don’t grasp the change in his view of evolution, but classify him as a believer in immutable species.

Schopenhauer was an atheist, so he rejects the view that an animal’s shape is the outcome of God’s design. He also rejects what Lovejoy calls the “mechanical biology” of Darwin — that is, Schopenhauer rejects the view that an animal’s shape is determined by its environment. Schopenhauer seems to have died without ever reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, but even if he had read Darwin, he would doubtless have continued to believe that organisms are shaped by “the will or inner tendency of the organism, which somehow causes it to have the organs which it requires in order to cope with its environment.”1 Schopenhauer understands that a new species arises by need, by danger, by opposition. This raises the will to greater intensity — Schopenhauer speaks of “abnormal heightening” — as an athlete will over-perform when his team is behind, and he’s determined to win, he’s inspired.2

Schopenhauer’s view of evolution is similar to Nietzsche’s, Bergson’s, and George Bernard Shaw’s. In general, philosophers reject Darwinian evolution, reject “mechanical biology,” and stress the importance of will, urge, instinct. Lovejoy describes this view of evolution as “a sort of generalized vitalism,” and he says that Schopenhauer was “the first important representative” of this school.3

Schopenhauer understood several ideas that were important in the development of Darwin’s theory. For example, Schopenhauer understood that various species have the same basic blueprint, and probably a common ancestor; Schopenhauer understood “the homologies in the inner structure of all the vertebrates. In the neck of the giraffe... we find, prodigiously elongated, the same number of vertebrae which we find in the neck of the mole contracted so as to be scarcely recognizable.” Schopenhauer understood the unity of plan in the organic world, and from unity of plan, Schopenhauer inferred common ancestry, inferred that “the original forms of the various animals have arisen one out of another.”4

Schopenhauer also understood the struggle for survival. Lovejoy says,

The universal prevalence of a struggle for existence among organisms was eloquently set forth by Schopenhauer forty years before Darwin published the Origin of Species. But it seems never to have occurred to Schopenhauer to regard this struggle as an explanation of the formation of species and the adaptation of organisms to their environment.

Schopenhauer failed to grasp natural selection, and failed to grasp that evolution takes place in small increments over large periods of time.

We’ve seen that Schopenhauer understood unity of plan and the struggle for survival. A third Darwinian insight that Schopenhauer had was that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny — “all embryos pass successively through the forms of lower species before attaining to that of their own.” Among modern scientists, it has become fashionable to reject this idea; I suspect that we’re rejecting it too hastily, as we reject so many old ideas that are at least partly true.

Schopenhauer calls Lamarck “very eminent” and “immortal.” He’s particularly impressed by the “profundity” of Lamarck’s division of animals into vertebrates and invertebrates. “[Lamarck] saw rightly,” Schopenhauer says, “that the primary element which has determined the animal’s organization is the will of the animal itself.”

Nonetheless, Lamarck has fallen into a “strange error” as a result of “the backward state of metaphysics in France.” The French haven’t grasped Kant’s philosophy, haven’t grasped “the great doctrine of the ideality of space and time,” so Lamarck can only think of evolution in terms of “time and succession.” Lamarck says that the emergence of a new organ, such as an eye or a thumb, is preceded by “a felt need, a conscious desire.”

But this hypothesis is absurd, says Schopenhauer, and its absurdity is evident if we go back to the first spark of life. Lamarck’s hypothesis implies that the first spark of life had no organs, only needs/desires. Any organs could only arise out of a need/desire.5

Schopenhauer grasped that need, desire, mutation, and organ don’t arise successively. They don’t arise by conscious striving, but rather through unconscious will and through “smart matter.” We can’t grasp evolution by linear thinking, we can only grasp it through the deeper view of time, space, and causality that Schopenhauer learned from Kant. Lamarck understood the importance of will/urge in evolution, but he couldn’t get beyond linear thinking.

I’m deeply impressed by Schopenhauer’s argument. Schopenhauer understood what Darwin didn’t understand, what Lovejoy didn’t understand, what few people alive today understand — namely, that the origin of life, and the origin of species, can’t be grasped by linear thinking. These great mysteries can’t be explained in terms of linear causality (A leads to B, B leads to C, etc.), and can’t be explained in terms of linear time (past, present, future).

We can only understand the origin of life, and the origin of species, if we think of causality, not as a chain, but as a net, a net in which a vast number of causes arise together. This is the doctrine from India called Mutual Arising, which I’ve discussed in several earlier issues. And we need to replace the concept of linear time with a more profound concept: the future exists already, some sort of fate or destiny impacts the present.6 Schopenhauer was right to argue that Lamarck didn’t understand Kant’s teaching, didn’t understand that space, time, and causality don’t exist in the thing-in-itself, they’re illusory.

So how does a new organ, like an eye or a thumb, arise? Partly by need, partly by will, partly by genetic mutation, and partly by destiny (a vague sense of the future). It arises by all these factors together. We shouldn’t think of need and will and mutation as three separate things, we should think of them as an organic whole, as one system, one inter-connected system. We should think in terms of Mutual Arising, Systems Theory, not linear causality.

And how did the first spark of life arise? By destiny, by Mutual Arising, by the cooperative tendency that we see in quantum physics, by the “smart matter” that we see in quantum physics — by all of these factors together.7 If we solve the species mystery, we also solve the life mystery (and vice-versa); the origin of life and the origin of species is essentially the same mystery, and one theory solves both. (Occam will be happy, because we’re following his Law of Parsimony, often called “Occam’s Razor.”)

Just as historical events result from numerous causes acting together, arising together, so too the origins of life and species result from numerous causes acting together. And just as historical events can be predicted in advance because some sort of destiny is operating, so too destiny plays a role in the origins of life and species.

Has anybody ever understood these matters better than Schopenhauer — ever understood the origin of life and the origin of species better than Schopenhauer? Schopenhauer has some profound insights, but he also makes some silly mistakes, which can easily be corrected. Here are four mistakes he made:

  1. He says that a new species appears all at once, not gradually — the first human appears suddenly from primates, etc.8
  2. He believed that the human race arose in three different places: “We should have to think of the first men [Schopenhauer wrote] as born in Asia from the pongo (whose young are called orang-outangs) and in Africa from the chimpanzee — though born men, and not apes.... The human species probably originated in three places, since we know only three distinct types which point to an original diversity of race — the Caucasian, the Mongolian and the Ethiopian type.” Schopenhauer’s view is called polygenism. It’s now believed that man arose in one place, Africa; this is called monogenism.
  3. Schopenhauer believed that spontaneous generation was a common occurrence; he believed that organic life frequently bursts forth from inorganic matter; he believed that fungi sprout spontaneously from inorganic matter. (We know that the organic burst from the inorganic at least once. Did this happen more than once?)
  4. He believed (following Cuvier) that all life was extinguished at least three times, then started afresh by spontaneous generation (he terms spontaneous generation “generatio aequivoca”). According to Schopenhauer, each time life re-starts, it reaches a higher level than the previous time. (We know today that a mass extinction doesn’t destroy all life.)

I mentioned above that Schopenhauer scolded Lamarck for his ignorance of metaphysics, and Schopenhauer attributed this ignorance to a more general French ignorance of metaphysics. Schopenhauer had a similar attitude toward Robert Chambers, author of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation; Schopenhauer believed that the English and French were equally ignorant of metaphysics. Schopenhauer complained that the English and French don’t understand the spiritual realm, the non-physical realm — what I call the occult. Therefore, the English and French can only explain things in terms of physical, mechanical causes, or in terms of God’s activity — there’s no Third Way. Schopenhauer says of Chambers,

To him, as an Englishman, every assumption which rises above the merely physical — everything metaphysical, in short — is forthwith confused with the Hebraic theism, in the effort to escape which, on the other hand, he gives an undue extension to the domain of the physical. Thus an Englishman, in his indifference and complete barbarism with respect to all speculative philosophy or metaphysics, is actually incapable of any spiritual view of Nature; he knows no middle ground between a conception of it as operating of itself according to rigorous and, so far as possible, mechanical laws, and a conception of it as manufactured according to a preconceived design by that Hebrew God whom he speaks of as its “Maker.”9

Schopenhauer understands that we can’t explain evolution by physical factors or by religious factors, but only by the Third Way, only by spiritual/occult factors. When he says that Germans have a superior grasp of the Third Way, he may be right. It’s hard to imagine a thinker like Jung coming from England or France.10

So now we’ve seen Schopenhauer scolding both Lamarck and Chambers for their ignorance of the spiritual dimension, the Third Way. Lovejoy mentions a third thinker who could be scolded for the same fault: Herbert Spencer. Spencer was influenced by Darwin, and Spencer applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to human society; the concept of “Social Darwinism” owes much to Spencer. Spencer has been called “the single most famous European intellectual in the closing decades of the nineteenth century.”11

Lovejoy says that Spencer emphasized the physical/mechanical, so it’s clear that Spencer didn’t grasp the spiritual/occult. “Spencer’s evolutionism [is] thoroughly mechanistic,” Lovejoy says. Nothing new can be created except “novelties in the spatial arrangement of the particles of matter. Even these novelties are only the completely predetermined consequences of the sum of matter and energy originally present in the universe.”

If Schopenhauer were familiar with Spencer, he would have poured upon him all the vials of his wrath. As Lovejoy says, Schopenhauer’s conception of evolution is “radically anti-mechanistic.” Schopenhauer’s Will is dynamic, creative, inspired; Schopenhauer’s Will is neither physical nor mechanical.12

I said above that destiny plays a role in evolution. The notion of destiny is related to the notion of Final Cause (teleology). The future has some sort of causal power in the present. Our goal or telos, though it may not be conscious, exerts some power over our actions. Lovejoy says that Schopenhauer opposed “the mechanistic elimination of all purposiveness from nature. [He] endeavored to find room for a teleology dissociated from anthropomorphism. [He believed that] the Will moves towards ends determined by its own inner nature, though it does not foresee these ends.”

In this respect, as in other respects, Schopenhauer is “the precursor of Bergson.” Both Schopenhauer and Bergson understand that Final Cause plays a role in evolution, though it isn’t the sole factor. Bergson

rejects what he calls le finalisme radical not less than the radical mechanistic doctrine, while insisting upon the indispensability of some notion of finality in any attempt to comprehend the development of organisms. From this point of view Bergson has objected, upon grounds altogether similar to those which have been noted in Schopenhauer’s reference to Lamarck, to the Lamarckian tendency to identify the cause of the production of new characters with “a conscious effort of the individual”; while he at the same time regards Lamarckianism as approaching far nearer than does Darwinism, with its essentially mechanistic interpretation of organic evolution, to a correct representation of the developmental process. Like Schopenhauer, M. Bergson adopts, as the biological theory most congenial to his metaphysics of the poussée vitale [vital push], a combination of the doctrines of orthogenesis [directed evolution, advancing evolution] and of mutation [evolution by leaps].

Philosophy is attracted by mystery, and there’s no bigger mystery than the origin of life. The origin of species is also a mystery, closely related to the origin-of-life mystery, but the scholarly establishment refuses to admit that the origin of species is a mystery, they insist that they’ve explained the origin of species, and they insist that their explanation isn’t a theory, it’s a “fact.” Their explanation relies on random mutation, relies on a long series of random events. The establishment is comfortable with chance, but uncomfortable with spirit/will/urge, uncomfortable with the non-physical, though quantum physics demonstrates the existence of non-physical factors.

Evolution is an important philosophical subject, and it can be part of a new philosophy, a philosophy that presents a comprehensive view of the universe, a philosophy that appreciates spiritual factors, non-physical factors, but doesn’t rely on a Super Being.

2. Videos

A. Little Women (2019) is a lively, touching movie, popular with both critics and the public. But it strays from the Alcott novel, and depicts Alcott herself, so the viewer must follow two story-lines, plus numerous time-shifts. The viewer must also swallow a helping of PoliticallyCorrect dogmas. So I can’t recommend the movie with enthusiasm.

If Louisa May Alcott were alive today, she’d probably be transgender or homosexual. She once said, “I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body... I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.”

If you want to read Little Women, consider the edition annotated by John Matteson. Matteson is the author of Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father.

B. In an earlier issue, I mentioned a Princeton historian named Robert Darnton, who specializes in French intellectual history. Darnton is best known for a book called The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. Darnton is now working on a book about the “revolutionary temper” in France in the forty years prior to the French Revolution. Click here for a lively interview with Darnton about his book Pirating and Publishing: The Book Trade in the Age of Enlightenment.

Darnton agrees with me that our copyright laws favor the writer at the expense of the reader, and he agrees with me that this situation is the result of Disney lobbying for an extension of copyright protection. Our laws extend copyright protection for 70 years after a writer’s death; this is too long, and creates an impediment for readers.

C. Making North America (2015) is an excellent documentary about geology and the natural sciences. It was made by Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. It’s about three hours long, and it’s part of the PBS series called Nova.

Johnson recently made a 2-hour Nova documentary called “Polar Extremes.” He makes science both entertaining and understandable.

Click here for a documentary by Mark Dennen on NewEngland geology. Click here for a video about rocks featuring William Vales and Anita Honkonen.

3. Mt. Wachusett

A couple weeks ago, in early March, it seemed that the snow had melted and spring had arrived, so I set out for Mt. Wachusett, which is in the center of Massachusetts. I soon discovered that it was still winter at Wachusett — there was snow on the ground, and ice on the trail. Luckily I had brought spikes, which kept me from slipping on the ice.

Hikers had packed down the snow on the trail, turning it to ice. The only way to avoid the ice was to leave the trail. (I’ve heard that Ice Ages occur when snow is packed down and turns into ice. Polar summers are too cold to melt the snow, so the snow gets deeper and deeper, and is packed down by its own weight, turning it into ice.)

I followed a route described in Fifty Hikes in Massachusetts, by Brady and White. The authors are geology professors at Smith College, so their book has information about rocks, trees, etc.13

The woods were very quiet. Birds seem more abundant, and more noisy, in the suburbs than in the deep woods. There were few hikers around. Suddenly the stillness was broken by what sounded like explosions or gunshots or a jack-hammer; the noise was so loud it must have been audible for a mile. When I came closer, and took out my binoculars, I realized it was a Pileated Woodpecker, drumming on a tree.

I recently took up bird-watching; I’m particularly interested in ducks. Binoculars are the bird-watcher’s trademark; binoculars are for bird-watchers what the black leather jacket is for motorcycle-riders. I use a bird-watching app from Audubon; it has bird-information, bird-pictures, and bird-songs; it also enables you to keep a list of what you’ve seen. (Another app that I use frequently is “Sky View,” which helps you to learn stars, planets, etc.)

The term “Pileated Woodpecker” means crested woodpecker.

photo by Mark Musselman

“Pileated” comes from the Latin pileus, hat, especially a close-fitting felt hat. In ancient Rome, freed slaves wore a pileus, so the term pileus became synonymous with freedom. Below is a Roman coin with a pileus flanked by daggers.

The coin was minted by Brutus after he and his co-conspirators killed Julius Caesar. The inscription “EID MAR” means “Ides of March.” The coin conveyed the message, “We’ve given Romans their freedom by killing the tyrant Caesar with daggers on the Ides of March.” The coin helped Brutus to “build his brand,” as well as pay his soldiers.

From the summit of Wachusett, I could see both edges of Massachusetts — Boston in the east, Mt. Greylock in the west. I could also see Mt. Monadnock in southern New Hampshire. Without binoculars, it might be difficult to see Boston and Greylock.14

It’s surprising how far you can see if you climb a small mountain in a relatively flat area, and if your view isn’t obscured by trees. A short climb enables you to “see over” the curvature of the earth, and get a long view.

If you want to enjoy the view without climbing, you can drive to the summit of Wachusett. It may also be possible to ride the ski lift, which is sometimes open to non-skiiers. In the fall, the summit of Wachusett is popular with birders who want to see migrating hawks.

Wachusett is about 2,000 feet high. Most of the trailheads at the base of the mountain (including the one where I parked) are at about 1,000 feet, so you’re climbing about 1,000 feet.

A sign at the summit says that Wachusett was once 20,000 feet high. All mountains/hills are gradually eroded, unless some force is pushing them upward. What was said of an arrow is also true of a mountain: It either rises or falls.

Near Wachusett are three other places you may want to visit:

Below is a map of the route I hiked to the summit. I’ve marked the ski area “S” and Balance Rock “B” and Redemption Rock “R” and Wachusett Meadow “W”.

Below is a picture of Balance Rock. Note the angular shape of the two glacial erratics that comprise Balance Rock.

Erratics tend to be angular rather than rounded because they were riding on the glacier, not crushed beneath it. When a rock is crushed beneath a glacier, it tends to be flattened and smoothed on the front side (the side that the glacier contacts first), and “plucked” on the back side (plucking means that the ice tears off chunks of rock, chunks that are then carried by the glacier, becoming erratic boulders). Here’s a diagram of a glacier moving over a large rock:

The term “roche moutonée” means smoothed rock (literally, rock that resembles hair that has been smoothed down with sheep fat). The smoothing occurs on the front side, or upstream side, and on the top, while the back side is left rough and broken.

Here’s a picture of Redemption Rock. Note the “staircase” shape of its right side (southeast side).

Here’s another picture of Redemption Rock, showing the staircase shape of its southeast side:

In my view, Redemption Rock is a good example of a rock that was smoothed by a glacier on its front side and on its top, then plucked on its back side. Plucking created the staircase shape, and probably produced boulders that became erratics. The staircase shape is found on the downstream side, the side where one would expect plucking to occur. If the staircase were on the north side, that would be an argument against my view that Redemption Rock is a roche moutonée.15

Below is another “staircase rock.” This rock is on the town green in Harvard MA. The “steps” are on the downstream side, and were probably made by a glacier.

If you want to see more erratics, there are several near Balance Rock, and an unusually large erratic at Wachusett Meadow, on a trail called Glacial Boulder Trail. If you want to see thousands of erratics in one area, visit the Beaver River Preserve in Rhode Island, a small preserve packed with boulders.

When I first heard about Balance Rock, I wondered why teenage pranksters hadn’t pulled down the top rock. I later learned that this is indeed a problem for some balancing rocks, and has led to some intentional demolitions, but Balance Rock has survived so far, perhaps because both the top and bottom rocks are very heavy and firmly seated.16

4. Charlton Ogburn

Fifty Hikes is a trail book with some science. There are also travel books with some science. I’m now reading The Winter Beach, a travel/science book by Charlton Ogburn. It describes Ogburn’s trip along the northeast coast — Acadia, Cape Cod, Newport, Long Island, etc. Winter Beach won the Burroughs Medal for nature writing in 1967.

Ogburn has a keen eye for rocks, birds, plants, etc. He says that he brought home from Maine “some quartz-veined cobbles to use as book-ends and [was] taken by their powerful presences, their primeval immutability.... You cannot handle granite and basalt without feeling close to the origin of things.” When you begin to dabble in the natural sciences, you quickly learn that rocks are far more interesting and varied than you thought; they’re full of character and history.

Ogburn admits that he’s a novice, an amateur who has educated himself by reading about nature. And he’s candid enough to admit that he envies the professionals who receive a paycheck, while he’s pinching pennies, and sleeping in his chilly Volkswagen bus.

Ogburn scolds Judaism (and the other Abrahamic religions) for putting man and nature at odds, for encouraging man to dominate nature. I was familiar with the famous passage from Genesis: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

But Ogburn quotes a passage that I wasn’t familiar with: “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.”17 So the Bible doesn’t speak of living in harmony with nature, it speaks of striking fear into other creatures.

When Ogburn goes to Cape Cod, he makes a pilgrimage to Nauset Marsh, which is associated with two classics of nature writing, Henry Beston’s The Outermost Beach, and Wyman Richardson’s The House at Nauset Marsh. Beston’s small cottage had been moved by the time Ogburn visited (c. 1965), but Richardson’s house was still at the marsh. The sight of Richardson’s house evoked in Ogburn “a burning feeling in my throat from thinking of the death, only a few years before, of the man whose home this was and who had become so real to me from what he had written.”

What is best in Ogburn’s book may have been inspired by Beston and Richardson. Ogburn also studied Thoreau’s classic about Cape Cod. But Ogburn hasn’t read John Hay, a naturalist who focused on the northeast coast. Hay was born in 1915, four years after Ogburn, so when Ogburn was writing Winter Beach, he may not have heard of Hay.

Ogburn is a connoisseur of architecture as well as nature and literature. He often expresses his disgust at ugly architecture, neon signs, “commercial blight.” When he’s at the tip of Cape Cod, he says that

one nondescript building can dominate two or three square miles [and] with its quality of the sordid impose upon its surroundings the mood of a city’s blasted, treeless outskirts. And yet, curiously, a lighthouse in such a setting will give the whole a character of nobility.18

Ogburn was a prominent figure in the Oxfordian movement; he appears in the Frontline video, “The Shakespeare Mystery.” His parents were also prominent Oxfordians.

During World War II, Ogburn was in Merrill’s Marauders, an American unit that fought in Burma. After the war, Ogburn wrote a book called The Marauders, and worked for the State Department. He may have been the first American to see the futility of fighting in Vietnam. In 1950, he warned that Western nations couldn’t defeat the Vietnamese Communists; if the Communists suffered a military setback, they would go “underground until a more propitious occasion presented itself.” A prescient warning indeed.

5. Biden

Many Americans are aghast at Biden’s border policy. Is he trying to destroy the country as quickly as possible? Or is he trying to bring millions of foreigners into the country because he’s confident that they’ll eventually vote Democratic? Is he willing to destroy the country in order to keep the Democratic party in power? The border mess shows that you can’t run a country as a charity, and you can’t prioritize humanitarian considerations. (As Chaudhuri said, “the most obvious moral judgment on a political situation is not necessarily a right judgment, and for humane feelings to go for a straight tilt at politics is even more quixotic than tilting at windmills.”) With respect to the border, Trump had the right instincts, pursued the right policies, and achieved the right results.

The Democrats’ border policy, like their scheme to create new states, seems to be an effort to dilute the votes of Republicans. Diluting is akin to disenfranchising. The Democrats are pursuing an extreme policy of Disenfranchise and Destroy. Republican anger hasn’t exploded yet, but it’s simmering. We should expect some sort of political violence or civil strife.

I don’t think civil war is imminent, but it’s coming. Such a war could take the form of Democratic gangs fighting Republican gangs, or it could take the form of a private army fighting the official U.S. Army, or it could take the form of units of the Army fighting other units of the Army. Eventually the Army will get involved, it will be forced to take sides, it won’t be able to keep aloof from politics, just as the Supreme Court can’t keep aloof from politics, much as it might like to.

As for Biden’s $1.9 trillion “Covid Relief” bill, many Americans realize that this is a vote-buying scheme, the lowest form of demagoguery. Even the Democratic economist Larry Summers warned that it could lead to inflation, and it takes money away from the country’s real needs (such as infrastructure and defense).

The Democrats are ignoring the basic fact that borrowed money must eventually be repaid, and repaid with interest. But many Americans feel in their bones that massive borrowing will eventually lead to problems, a day of reckoning will come.

The Democrats believe that any policy is justifiable if it leads to the defeat of Trump, and Trump’s Republican party. And even some moderates believe that Trump was the worst President ever, and had to be defeated. I spoke to one woman who’s somewhat conservative, but she said she prefers Biden to Trump because at least Biden preaches unity, even if he doesn’t practice it; Trump didn’t even make a pretense of unifying, he was openly divisive.

Compromise and cooperation is still the country’s best hope. But both sides feel that victory is imperative, both sides are afraid of compromising too soon or too much. So violence seems more likely than cooperation.

© L. James Hammond 2021
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1. p. 201 of Lovejoy’s essay, quoting Lovejoy himself, not Schopenhauer back
2. In an earlier issue, I wrote, “Some Jungians have argued that evolution doesn’t occur through random mutations, but rather through synchronicity; ‘a species of animals, under great pressure or in great need, could produce “meaningful” (but acausal) changes in its outer material structure.’”(Man and His Symbols, Conclusion by Marie-Louise von Franz, p. 306, hardcover version) back
3. “Generalized vitalism” is a phrase of Berthelot’s, quoted by Lovejoy. Lovejoy mentions Nietzsche, Bergson, and Shaw on p. 221; he describes this view as “romantic evolutionism.” It’s not clear to me whether Lovejoy sides with the “romantics” or the “mechanics.”

Lovejoy describes the Darwinian view thus:
“The Darwinian hypothesis makes of species and their adaptive characteristics merely the result of a sort of mechanical pressure of external forces. Slight promiscuous variations, due probably to fortuitous displacements in the molecules of the germ-cell, are conserved or eliminated in the course of the jostle for survival, according as they do or do not fit the individuals possessing them to keep a footing in that turmoil. But such a doctrine assigns to the organism itself, and to its inner potencies, an essentially passive role; development is, as it were, extorted from living things by external circumstances, and is not a tendency expressive of all that is most characteristic in the nature of organisms as such. The metaphysician whose ruling conception was that of a cosmic life-force [i.e., Schopenhauer] was debarred by the dominant temper of his thought and the deepest tendency of his system from any such account of the causes and the meaning of that progressive diversification of the forms of life, the reality of which he clearly recognized. Thus, though Schopenhauer incidentally shows certain affinities with Darwinism, he is much more truly to be regarded as the protagonist in nineteenth century philosophy — at just the time when Darwin was elaborating a mechanical biology and Spencer a would-be mechanistic cosmogony — of that other form of evolutionism which a recent French writer has described as ‘a sort of generalized vitalism.’” back

4. This is a quote from Schopenhauer’s The Will in Nature. For more on Schopenhauer’s view of evolution, see his essay “On the Philosophy and Science of Nature” (Zur Philosophie und Wissenschaft der Natur), which is in Chapter 6 of his Parerga and Paralipomena. Lovejoy calls this essay “the most important of its author’s later writings, but one which has been amazingly neglected” by scholars. Lovejoy says it hasn’t been translated into English. back
5. “[Lamarck’s] hypothesis implies that if we should go back to the beginning of the series of animals we should come to a time in which the ancestor of all the animals existed without any organs or functions at all, in the form of a mere need, a desire pure and simple — which implication [Schopenhauer] regards as reducing the hypothesis to an absurdity.” back
6. As I said in my recent discussion of Dickens, “‘all which we shall see, with all which we have seen and are seeing, exists already in an eternal now.’ Time is an illusion, reality is an eternal now, the future already exists.” back
7. If these factors created life on earth, could they create life elsewhere? If matter is “smart,” then it’s smart everywhere in the universe. If matter is smart enough to self-organize, and create the first spark of life, then it’s conceivable that it could self-organize elsewhere in the universe, if the physical conditions permitted. back
8. In Lovejoy’s time, the theory that evolution takes place by leaps, not small steps, was called mutationism; Hugo de Vries was the father of mutationism. Evolution by sudden leaps is also called “saltation” or “macro-mutation.” Lovejoy writes, “The scale on which [Schopenhauer] supposed these ‘discontinuous variations’ to occur is calculated to make our contemporary mutationists stare and gasp; the changes of form which he assumed are saltatory indeed.” From a fish, Schopenhauer said, “arose a cetacean, possibly a dolphin.... Perhaps the duckbill [i.e., the duckbill platypus] came from the egg of a duck.” But we shouldn’t laugh too loudly at these big leaps; after all, life did emerge from inorganic matter, so we know that at least one big leap has occurred. back
9. This passage shows that Schopenhauer was scornful of the Jewish concept of One God, scornful of monotheism. He felt that monotheism creates confusion and error, and those who developed it should be blamed, not praised. back
10. Jung came from Switzerland, not Germany, but he was closer to Germany in a cultural sense than to England or France. Likewise, Freud was Jewish-Austrian, not German, but he was closer to Germany in a cultural sense than to England or France; Freud read Schopenhauer and Nietzsche far more than Mill and Carlyle. But I wouldn’t make too much of the “German factor”; the Germans may have an edge in this department, but other peoples are close behind. back
11. Wikipedia back
12. Schopenhauer’s view of evolution reminds me of Goethe’s view. In an earlier issue, I wrote, “Perhaps no one understood the creative character of evolution better than Goethe. Goethe’s evolution isn’t the brutal, unintelligent, Malthusian evolution of the Darwinians. Goethe’s evolution is about inner urge, inner vitality, not random mutation and natural selection. Goethe’s evolution is active, like the writing of a poem; Darwin’s is passive.” Schopenhauer was doubtless familiar with Goethe’s views on nature, probably agreed with them, and may have been influenced by them. back
13. This book is becoming dated, the most recent edition was published in 2006. The most recent edition is the fourth edition; it’s called “50 Hikes...” rather than “Fifty Hikes...” back
14. The term “monadnock” means isolated mountain, “a single mountain on a relatively flat landscape” (Wikipedia). Wachusett itself is a monadnock. Monadnocks are also called “inselbergs,” a German word meaning “island mountain.” The word “monadnock” is a NativeAmerican word, so it’s not related to “mono” or “monad.”

What causes a monadnock? Apparently a monadnock forms when a glacier scours the country, but some tough rock resists the scouring (this page says that Wachusett is, “made of metamorphic gneiss that was more resistant to the scouring of the glacier.”). back

15. Click here for a page that agrees with my view, here for a page that says Redemption Rock is itself an erratic.

When a glacier smooths a rock, it often leaves score marks, where small pebbles have been pushed along the rock, like little chisels. Redemption Rock seems to lack score marks on its top. Were there no pebbles on Redemption Rock when the glacier passed over it? Or have the feet of visitors worn away the score marks? back

16. Both the top and bottom rocks that comprise Balance Rock seem to be made of a rock called gneiss, which is known for banding or striping. Here’s a close-up picture of Balance Rock (the bottom rock):

17. See The Winter Beach, Ch. 3, pp. 49-52 back
18. The Winter Beach, “Cape Cod,” p. 102. “You cannot visit the winter beach,” Ogburn writes, “and be spared the sight, rendered more stark by the drabness of the season, of glum and anomalous structures of cement blocks, crowded and tasteless cottages, billboards and gas stations that set your teeth on edge with their neon lights, and the conglomeration sickens you because it portrays human existence as squalid, a mean scramble among gross persons for material advantage.”(p. 102) See also p. 82.

Another important nature writer (besides Beston, Richardson, and Hay) is William Beebe, the first winner of the Burroughs Medal. Among Beebe’s books are

  • The Bird, Its Form and Function
  • Galapagos: World’s End
  • Pheasants: Their Lives and Homes (also known as Pheasants of the World)