Revisiting the Origin of Species : The Other Darwins book cover
1st Edition

Revisiting the Origin of Species
The Other Darwins

ISBN 9780367360054
Published September 5, 2019 by Routledge
252 Pages

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Book Description

Contemporary interest in Darwin rises from a general ideal of what Darwin’s books ought to contain: a theory of transformation of species by natural selection. However, a reader opening Darwin’s masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, today may be struck by the fact that this "selectionist" view does not deliver the key to many aspects of the book. Without contesting the importance of natural selection to Darwinism, much less supposing that a fully-formed "Darwinism" stepped out of Darwin’s head in 1859, this innovative volume aims to return to the text of the Origin itself.

Revisiting the 'Origin of Species' focuses on Darwin as theorising on the origin of variations; showing that Darwin himself was never a pan-selectionist (in contrast to some of his followers) but was concerned with "other means of modification" (which makes him an evolutionary pluralist). Furthermore, in contrast to common textbook presentations of "Darwinism", Hoquet stresses the fact that On the Origin of Species can lend itself to several contradictory interpretations. Thus, this volume identifies where rival interpretations have taken root; to unearth the ambiguities readers of Darwin have latched onto as they have produced a myriad of Darwinian legacies, each more or less faithful enough to the originator’s thought.

Emphasising the historical features, complexities and intricacies of Darwin’s argument, Revisiting the 'Origin of Species' can be used by any lay readers opening Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This volume will also appeal to students and researchers interested in areas such as Evolution, Natural Selection, Scientific Translations and Origins of Life.

Table of Contents

Introduction. The meanings of "Darwinism"

Part I. Darwin-the-Selectionist and beyond

Chapter 1. A labyrinthine Origin

Chapter 2. Diffracting Darwin’s title— The prism of translations

Chapter 3. "One long argument"? Darwin-the-Selectionist

Part II. Darwin-the-Variationist

Chapter 4. Darwin-the-Epicurean. Chance and laws of variation.

Chapter 5. Darwin-the-Teleologist. Are all variations useful?

Chapter 6. Darwin-the-Lamarckian and the Other "Means of Modification"

Part III. Radical origins: Darwin-the-Cosmologist

Chapter 7. "Mystery of mysteries": the temptation of origin

Chapter 8. "Originally Breathed": or, on the Origin of Life

Chapter 9. "Light will be thrown": or, on the Origin of Mankind

Chapter 10. Darwin-the-Darwinist, Or the Quest for Systematic Coherency

Conclusion. Darwinisms, or Darwin Diffracted

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Thierry Hoquet is Professor of Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy at Paris Nanterre University, France.


"Like many other classics, The Origin of Species is widely known and referenced, yet rarely actually read. Revisiting the Origin of Species asks us what we should make of this celebrated work in view of the ways it was initially read. This book should encourage uninitiated students and scholars alike to do as its title suggests, functioning as both exhortation and guide The focus of this volume is on Darwin-the-text rather than Darwin-the-man, with sparing use of the industrial-scale scholarship that sprang up in his name. The historicism has a narrow and highly disciplined remit; it is a snapshot in the history of ideas. Hoquet’s examination is almost entirely confined to the debates occurring in the period spanning the Origin’s first appearance in 1859 through to the sixth and last edition of 1872, and its early translations. The aim is to de-synthesize understandings of Darwin’s text, to resist the way twentieth-century developments have reinterpreted it according to what Darwin really meant or should have meant. Hoquet wants to recapture the contention the Origin first provoked."

Roderick David Buchanan, 2019