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The Philosophical Future

Man’s Psychic Journey: End or Beginning?


Charles R. Reid

This book surveys the breadth of mankind’s postmodern malaise, which is achieved through a discussion of the major challenges, social and psychological, which every individual faces in the effort to live fully in the twenty-first century. These challenges lay in broadly familiar domains: self- and group-consciousness; common man and his place in a future society in which mental activity dominates; work and leisure; knowledge and values accruing from it, both for self and others; possibilities in education; civilization, with its “Dark Age” phenomena and its dreams of progress; the role of the past in contemporary life; and power, both in society and within the sovereign individual who, though bound by physical and intellectual limits, functions as a seeker after the freedom and self-fulfillment which are so wholly integral to the human condition. And finally a serious question: What fate awaits the perpetual non-conformist, whose views, however unwelcome in his own time and in a contemporary environment, may in fact anticipate future living conditions?

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Chapter Thirteen: The Civilizing Process—A Darwinian Enigma: From Religion to Anti-Religion to Neo-Barbarism


chapter thirteen

The Civilizing Process— A Darwinian Enigma: From Religion to Anti-Religion to Neo-Barbarism

Today in the thicket of paradox generated in good part by Charles Darwin’s hypothesis, his theory of survival of the fittest with its Malthusian underpinnings, seems nonetheless more relevant than ever. It comes across as not just better suited than any other in giving a basic rational explanation of today’s numberless antagonisms or in clarifying inevitable future hostilities. It has also remained the only logical explanation for the persistence and enlargement of the scale of social conflict on multiple levels. As Russell remarked of the genesis of this theory:

The motive force of evolution is a kind of biological economics in a world of free competition. It was Malthus’s doctrine of population, extended to the world of animals and plants, that suggested to Darwin the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest as the source of evolution.1

Without Darwin’s ground rules governing the otherwise hard-to-account-for ups and downs in species development through time, with their fiercely competitive intra-species warfare, far greater (and hardly innocent) random conflict would surely prevail. Today’s whole picture of terrestrial animal life, including that of man, would be far different than it is. Darwin provides a better (if still not satisfactory) interpretation of an undeniable fact that no science so far questions: Over time, periods of relative calm and lessened conflict are interspersed between eras of more violent competition for life-space and...

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