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T. H. Huxley's Evolution and Ethics: Struggle for Survival and Society

Klára Netíková

E-LOGOS, 2019, vol. 2019, issue 1, 4-18

Abstract: The present paper focuses on main points of Thomas H. Huxley's lecture 'Evolution and Ethics', which addressed current social and political debate about application of evolutionary principle of competition on society. Huxley, a well-known proponent of Darwin, was strictly opposed to such application as he threatened that ethics, the base of civilized society, would disappear. He claimed that ethical process kept natural processes under control and made men truly human. He stressed that while evolution governed the biological realm of nature, ethics was domain of human conscience and society.Even though Huxley was well established scholar, ideas of his contemporary colleague Herbert Spencer often gained much more popularity amongst general public. This was certainly true in China, where Spencer's evolutionary ethics gained tremendous popularity. The Theory of Evolution in China was immediately dragged into debate about national survival. Spencer's thought was paradoxically introduced to China by translation of Huxley's critical lecture 'Evolution and Ethics'. Chinese intellectuals were, however, far more interested in the concept of struggle and competition than in philosophical questions about meaning of ethics in human society, which troubled Thomas Henry Huxley in his public lecture presented in 18th May 1893.

Keywords: evolution; ethics; social darwinism; Huxley; China; Yan Fu (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.18267/j.e-logos.460

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