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This article was downloaded by: [McMaster University] On: 15 October 2014, At: 12:25 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Science as Culture Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/csac20 Darwin's metaphor and the philosophy of science Robert M. Young a a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies , University of Kent , Published online: 23 Sep 2009. To cite this article: Robert M. Young (1993) Darwin's metaphor and the philosophy of science, Science as Culture, 3:3, 375-403, DOI: 10.1080/09505439309526356 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09505439309526356 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content. This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http:// www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

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Page 1: Darwin's metaphor and the philosophy of science

This article was downloaded by: [McMaster University]On: 15 October 2014, At: 12:25Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

Science as CulturePublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/csac20

Darwin's metaphor and the philosophy of scienceRobert M. Young aa Visiting Professor at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies , University of Kent ,Published online: 23 Sep 2009.

To cite this article: Robert M. Young (1993) Darwin's metaphor and the philosophy of science, Science as Culture, 3:3, 375-403,DOI: 10.1080/09505439309526356

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09505439309526356

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in thepublications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representationsor warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Anyopinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not theviews of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should beindependently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses,actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoevercaused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.

This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

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DARWIN'S METAPHOR AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE 3 7 5

DARWIN'S METAPHOR AND THEPHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

ROBERT M. YOUNG

I begin, rather as a clergyman would, with a text - aparagraph which Darwin added to the third edition of

On the Origin of Species, published in 1861. I have cometo believe that the issues raised by this passage arefundamental to the philosophy of science. Here is thetext:

Several writers have misapprehended or objected to theterm Natural Selection. Some have even imagined thatnatural selection induces variability, whereas it impliesonly the preservation of such variations as arise and arebeneficial to the being under its conditions of life. Noone objects to agriculturists speaking of the potenteffects of man's selection; and in this case the individualdifferences given by nature, which man for some objectselects, must of necessity first occur. Others haveobjected that the term selection implies consciouschoice in the animals which become modified; and ithas even been urged that, as plants have no volition,natural selection is not applicable to them! In the literalsense of the word, no doubt, natural selection is a falseterm; but who ever objected to chemists speaking ofthe elective affinities of the various elements? - and yetan acid cannot strictly be said to elect the base withwhich it in preference combines. It has been said that Ispeak of natural selection as an active power or Deity;but who objects to an author speaking of the attractionof gravity as ruling the movements of the planets?Everyone knows what is meant and is implied by suchmetaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary

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for brevity. So again it is difficult to avoid personifyingthe word Nature; but I mean by Nature, only theaggregate action and product of many natural laws, andby laws the sequence of events as ascertained by us.With a little familiarity such superficial objections willbe forgotten. (Darwin, 1895, pp. 58-9)

Before analysing this passage I want to make some pointsabout Darwin's writing habits. He was very meticulous inrevising his masterpiece. In fact, each successive editioncontained more revisions than the previous one. Theperson who counted them, Morse Peckham, said, 'Of the3,878 sentences in the first edition, nearly 3,000, about 75per cent, were rewritten from one to five times each. Over1,500 sentences were added, and of the original sentencesplus these, nearly 325 were dropped. Of the original andadded sentences there are nearly 7,500 variants of allkinds. In terms of net added sentences, the sixth editionis nearly a third as long as the first' (Peckham, 1959, p. 9).Of the total revisions, 7 per cent appeared in the secondedition, 14 per cent in the third, 21 per cent in the fourth,29 per cent in the fifth and the sixth had even more(pp 20-40).

So we have here a man who is very, very careful aboutwhat he says. He responds to specific papers and to lettersfrom his friends and critics. For example, the sixth editionhas so many revisions because St George Jackson Mivarthad said a lot of things that really upset Darwin, and heanswered them with great care and precision. I tell youthis because we are going to analyse some of his sentencesvery carefully, and I want you to know that the care hetook justifies the closest scrutiny of the text.

Turning now to the analysis of the text, let's get theeasy things out of the way. Firstly, Darwin says he is nottalking about the causes of variability; he's not talkingabout why species change, why they are modified. He isonly talking about the ones that get preserved. Secondly,

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he is not a Lamarckian; he is not talking about animals orplants striving in any way. Thirdly, and of interest to us,he plunges into the philosophy of science, and we will bestaying with him there for the rest of this article.

What about 'natural selection', what I have called'Darwin's metaphor' (Young, 1985b)? He says it is not aliteral term. It is literally false. Then he says, rightly inmy view, that chemists use such terms - 'elective affinity'is the example he gives, and that physicists speak of the'attraction of gravity' ruling the movements of the planets.'Everyone knows what is meant and is implied by suchmetaphorical expressions,' he says, and 'they are almostnecessary for brevity.' The metaphorical basis of his styleis central to my argument, so we will return to this topicbelow. The next - and closely related - issue is his habitof writing about nature as if it is a conscious agent, that isanthropomorphically. 'So again it is difficult to avoidpersonifying the word Nature; but I mean by Nature,only the aggregate action and product of many naturallaws, and by laws [I only mean] the sequence of events asascertained by us. With a little familiarity such superficialobjections will be forgotten.' I don't think they aresuperficial, and they certainly did not get forgotten. Theyplagued him for the rest of his life. I think that they arethe legacy of unresolved problems from the scientificrevolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,problems which A. N. Whitehead called the 'achilles heelof the whole system' (Whitehead, 1985, p. 71).

What's going on here? Darwin had earlier written to hisgreat mentor and hero, the geologist Charles Lyell, to saythat he felt in good company, since Leibniz had objectedto the law of gravity and claimed that it was opposed tonatural religion, because Newton could not show whatgravity is. If it's okay for gravity to rule the planets, whycan't natural selection rule the history of life? Well, I'dsay this makes me wonder about elective affinity andgravity rather than about natural selection, and I'll explain

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below that the concept of force seems to me to be in thesame bag. I want you to notice some of the ways thatDarwin wrote about nature and about his putative mech-anism - natural selection. But firstly, let's ask why it isimportant.

We are not talking here about an occasional bit of floridlanguage but about his consistent representation of theconcept - natural selection - which binds life to theconditions of existence, binds humanity to the rest of lifeand underpins the historicity of life and mind and society.Indeed, if, with Whitehead, we take the concept oforganism to be a more fruitful basic unit for metaphysicsthan matter, force or particle, Darwin's theory could beseen as the basic, deepest idea in all of science and all ofsociety.

The issue is, therefore, to say the least, important. Ithas also been - I'd say until recently - a much contro-verted matter. That is, although Darwin says again andagain that the analogy between the selection of breedersand farmers and pigeon fanciers was the basis for hisanalogy to what nature does - natural selection - somehistorians of biology have claimed that his was not thetrue path. I think that a paper by L. T. Evans on'Darwin's use of the analogy between artificial and naturalselection' (1984) makes a convincing case for the role ofthis analogy in the period leading up to Darwin's crucialreading of Malthus - just as Darwin says in hisautobiography:

In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I hadbegun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read foramusement Malthus on Population, and being wellprepared to appreciate the struggle for existence whicheverywhere goes on from long-continued observation ofthe habits of animals and plants, it at once struck methat under these circumstances favourable variationswould tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to

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be destroyed. The result of this would be the formationof a new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theoryby which to work; but I was so anxious to avoidprejudice, that I determined not for some time to writeeven the briefest sketch of it. (Darwin, 1958, p. 120)

Now, if it isn't obvious, the reason I'm labouring thispoint is that the phrase 'natural selection' and the waysthat he wrote about it are absolutely full of voluntaristic,anthropomorphic, dirty words as far as the official rules ofscience are concerned. One of the cardinal rules of modernscience is to avoid explaining things in terms which drawon human intentions and to eschew evaluative language.The abandonment of explanation in terms which draw onanalogies with human intentions and which explain interms of values and purposes (teleology) is supposed to setmodern science off against earlier forms of explanation ofthe phenomena of the natural world.

My strategy is to force us to see that there is no escapingthe fact that this kind of thinking lies at the heart ofDarwin's ideas and then to generalize this point to otherkinds of science and then, in my concluding section, todraw on the writings of some thinkers who believe thatthis is a good way of thinking about science altogether.

• ANTHROPOMORPHIC ANALOGIESDarwin stressed this point again in a letter to his friend,Joseph Hooker. He wrote in 1844, 'I have read heaps ofagricultural and horticultural books and have never ceasedcollecting facts. At last gleams of light have come, and Iam almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion Istarted with) that species are not (it is like confessing amurder) immutable' (Darwin, 1887, vol. 2, p. 23). Hegoes on to say, 'I believe all these absurd views arise fromno one having, as far as I know, approached the subjecton the side of variation under domestication, and having

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studied all that is known about domestication' (Darwin,1887, vol. 2, pp. 29-30).

We know that in the case of domestic breeders there isa conscious selecting agent. Darwin also says elsewhere,'all my notions about how species changed derive fromlong-continued study of the works of agriculturalists andhorticulturalists'. After the merest semicolon, he con-tinues, writing of nature as a selecting agent: 'and Ibelieve I see my way pretty clearly on the means used bynature to change her species and adapt them to thewondrous and exquisitely beautiful contingencies to whichevery living being is exposed . . .' (Darwin, 1887, vol. 2,pp. 29-30).

This analogy between human breeders and nature is ofcrucial significance, since Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-author of the theory of natural selection, denied, in theirjoint paper of 1858 the very paper in which their theorywas announced to the world that any inferences could bedrawn about conditions under nature from the study ofaritficial selection. He says, 'We see then, that no infer-ences as to the permanence of varieties in a state of naturecan be deduced from the observation of those occurringamong domestic animals' (Wallace, 1891, p. 31). Indeed,Wallace later regretted in print Darwin's use of suchexpressions. In a paper that was otherwise defending whathe was deferentially content to refer to as 'Darwinism',Wallace included a section entitled 'Mr Darwin's meta-phors liable to misconception' (p. 144).

But be all that as it may, I want you to notice the waysDarwin wrote about natural selection, a term which Evanstells us Darwin began employing after he read a treatiseby a man named Youatt on Cattle, their Breeds, Manage-ment and Diseases in March of 1840 (Evans, 1984, p. 122).Another key concept which has the same overtones is thatof 'picking', which he used before then and for which, toa considerable extent, 'selection' was substituted (p. 123).

Evans argues that the study of works of this kind was

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crucial for preparing Darwin for the insight that occurredon reading Malthus in 1838. After this event, or thisextended process, Darwin wrote, for example, 'It is abeautiful part of my theory, that domesticated races oforganisms are made by precisely the same means as species- but latter far more perfectly and infinitely slower'(Darwin, 1987, p. 416; Evans, 1984, p. 125). In anotherplace he writes about greyhounds, race horses and pigeonsand then speculates, 'Has nature any process analogous ifso she can produce great ends' (Darwin, 1987, p. 430;Evans, 1984, p. 126). 'But how [he is here rehearsing howhe is going to spell out his theory] - Make the difficultyapparent by cross-questioning. - even if placed on Isld -if &c &c - Then give my theory. - excellently true theory'(ibid.).

Darwin wrote a pencil sketch of his ideas in 1842, andin 1844 wrote out a more extended one (Darwin andWallace, 1958). He was anxious lest he die before goingpublic and left instructions for the publication of thetheory if he did. Even though he was so concerned abouthis mortality, he did not actually publish the theory foranother fifteen years and then only in a summary version.

Ten years after writing the 1844 essay he got down tohis big book, which was never published in his lifetime,called Natural Selection (Darwin, 1975). The first twochapters were on variation under domestication - twohundred pages - which he finished by October 1856. Hethen wrote the part on natural selection, which he finishedat the end of March of 1857. By the middle of June of1858, he was well along when he received a letter out ofthe blue in which Wallace's concepts were the same as hisown chapter headings - an extraordinary, independentdiscovery of evolution by means of natural selection. Hewas absolutely appalled by this coincidence, even thoughCharles Lyell had warned him that Wallace was on hisheels, thereby catalysing Darwin's finally getting down towriting what was intended to be his magnum opus. Darwin

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wrote to Lyell: 'I never saw a more striking coincidence;if Wallace had my MS sketch written out in 1842, hecould not have made a better short abstract! Even histerms now stand as heads to my chapters' (Darwin, 1887,vol. 2, p. 116).

What actually turned out to be Darwin's biggest book- and the one he wrote even before turning to the Descentof Man, that is, even before applying evolution to man -was The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestica-tion: two volumes, 300,000 words, published in 1868. Hepublished no other section of Natural Selection. Evansconcludes from this that:

Darwin's recognition of the power of selection in chang-ing organisms was almost entirely due to what helearned of plant and animal breeding. Simple as thismay seem now, it involved a bold and brilliant step,namely comprehending that he could use the facts andinsights of breeding to understand species in nature. SirWalter Raleigh and others had previously made thisassumption, but the belief had grown during sub-sequent centuries that domesticated varieties were quiteunlike wild species, being much more variable as aresult of better nutrition and care and liable to revert inits absence. (Evans, 1984, p. 133)

I now want to give a sense of his language, first from thebig book - Chapter 6, on natural selection, which refersfrequently to domesticated animals. On the first page hesays, 'If we reflect on the infinitely numerous & oddvariations in all parts of the structure of those few animals& plants, on which man may be said to have experimen-tised by domestication . . .' (Darwin, 1975, p. 214;Evans, 1984, p. 137). He illustrates these with a wealth ofexamples and then turns to nature. Note the verbs,adverbs and'adjectives. He says,

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See how differently Nature acts! . . . She cares not formere external appearance; she may be said to scrutinisewith a severe eye, every nerve, vessel & muscle; everyhabit, instinct, shade of constitution, - the wholemachinery of the organisation. There will be here nocaprice, no favouring: the good will be preserved andthe bad rigidly destroyed . . . Nature will not com-mence with some half-monstrous & useless form . . .Nature is prodigal of time & can act on thousands ofthousands generations: she is prodigal of the forms oflife . . . Can we wonder then, that nature's productionsbear the stamp of a far higher perfection than man'sproduct by artificial selection. (Darwin, 1975,pp. 224-5; Evans, 1984, p. 137)

In the Introduction to the Origin of Species, he says,

At the commencement of my observations it seemed tome probable that a careful study of domesticated ani-mals and cultivated plants would offer the best chanceof making out this obscure problem. Nor have I beendisappointed; in this and in all other perplexing cases Ihave invariably found that our knowledge, imperfectthough it be, of variation under domestication, affordedthe best and safest clue. I may venture to express myconviction of the high value of such studies, althoughthey have been very commonly neglected by naturalists.(Darwin, 1967, p. 4)

In the sketch of 1842 he writes (much of this languagegets carried over to the 1844 sketch and to the Origin ofSpecies): 'But if every part of a plant or animal was tovary, . . . and if a being infinitely more sagacious . . .'(Darwin and Wallace, 1958, p. 44). So we start out withthe being man, the selector, the breeder, the horticultur-alist, the pigeon fancier, and now he says,

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If a being infinitely more sagacious than man (not anomniscient creator) during thousands and thousands ofyears were to select all the variations which tendedtowards certain ends [or were to produce causes whichtended to the same end], for instance, if he foresaw acanine animal would be better off, owing to the countryproducing more hares, if he were longer legged andkeener sight - greyhound produced [Darwin is writingcryptic notes]. Who, seeing how plants vary in garden,what blind foolish man has done in a few years, willdeny an all-seeing being in thousands of years couldeffect (if the Creator chose to do so), either by his owndirect foresight or by intermediate means. (Darwin andWallace, 1958, pp. 45-6)

In 1857, he wrote to a friend (and reproduced the letter aspart of his case for priority over Wallace) of 'a being whodid not judge by mere external appearances . . . I think itcan be shown that there is such an unerring power at workin Natural Selection (the title of my book), which selectsexclusively for the good of each organic being' (Darwinand Wallace, 1958, pp 264-5). Here we have the cumula-tive power of natural selection. Indeed, we have the wordsin the title of this book. How's this for a scientific treatisein a tradition of scientific explanation which is supposedto have banished teleology from science: On the Origin ofSpecies by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation ofFavoured Races in the Struggle for Life} Those terms:selection, preservation, favoured, struggle, indeed 'life'itself, sit uneasily when considered in the light of thereductionist programme in modern philosophy of science.

In fact, Darwin says in the chapter on 'The struggle forexistence':

We have seen that man by selection can certainlyproduce great results, and can adapt organic beings tohis own uses, through the accumulation of slight but

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useful variations, given to him by the hand of Nature.But Natural Selection . . . is a power incessantly readyfor action, and is as immeasurably superior to man'sfeeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those ofArt. (Darwin, 1967, p. 61)

In the chapter on 'Natural selection' he again writes quitecomfortably in this vein: 'Can the principle of selection,which we have seen is so potent in the hands of man,apply in nature? I think we shall see that it can act mosteffectually' (Darwin, 1967, p. 80). 'As man can produceand certainly has produced a great result by his methodicaland unconscious means of selection, what may not natureeffect?' (p. 83). He goes on (this is my favourite passage):'It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourlyscrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, eventhe slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving andadding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working,whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at theimprovement of each organic being in relation to itsorganic and inorganic conditions of life' (p. 84).

Here we have a cascade of anthropomorphic descrip-tions of nature. He is showing the reader with examplesof what the critics of Victorian poetry call 'the patheticfallacy' (Miles, 1965), attributing human emotions andintentions to nature: 'acting', 'nature's power of selec-tion', 'skills', 'powers', 'visual power', 'a power intentlywatching', 'natural selection will pick out with unerringskill'.

He is at it again in the 'Recapitulation and conclusion'(I shall emphasize the 'offending' phrases):

There is no obvious reason why the principles whichhave acted so efficiently under domestications shouldnot have acted under nature . . . If then we have undernature variability and a powerful agent always ready toact and select, why should we doubt that variations in

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any way useful to beings, under their excessively com-plex relations of life, would be preserved, accumulated,and inherited? Why, if man can by patience selectvariations most useful to himself, should nature fail inselecting variations useful, under changing conditions oflife, to her living products} What limit can be put to thispower, acting during long ages and rigidly scrutinising thewhole constitution, structure, and habits of each crea-ture, -favouring the good and rejecting the bad? I can seeno limit to this power, in slowly and beautifully adaptingeach form to the most complex relations of life. Thetheory of natural selection, even if we looked no furtherthan this, seems to me to be in itself probable. (Darwin,1967, pp. 467, 469)

Wallace couldn't stand it. He wrote to Darwin: 'I havebeen so repeatedly struck by the utter inability of numbersof intelligent persons to see clearly, or at all, the self-acting and necessary effects of Natural Selection, that Iam led to conclude that the term itself, and your mode ofillustrating it, however clear and beautiful to many of us,are yet not the best adapted to impress it on the generalnaturalist public' (Darwin and Seward, 1903, p. 267). Hegives examples of writers who had badly misunderstoodDarwin. One of them 'considers your weak point to bethat you do not see that "thought and direction areessential to the action of Natural Selection". The sameobjection has been made a score of times by your chiefopponents, and I have heard it as often stated myself inconversation. Now, I think this arises almost entirely fromyour choice of the term "Natural Selection" and soconstantly comparing it in its effects to Man's Selection,and also your so frequently personifying nature as "select-ing", as "preferring", as "seeking only the good of thespecies," etc., etc. To the few this is as clear as daylight,and beautifully suggestive, but to many it is evidently astumbling-block' (pp. 267-8). He adds that 'people will

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not understand that all such phrases are metaphors'(p. 269), and suggests that Darwin should instead use 'thesurvival of the fittest' - which seemed to Wallace nodifferent (p. 268). It was only after Darwin didn't pay ablind bit of attention that Wallace wrote 'Mr Darwin'smetaphors liable to misconception'.

Darwin replied, 'I formerly thought, probably in anexaggerated degree, that it was a great advantage to bringinto connection natural and artificial selection; this indeedled me to use a term in common, and I still think it someadvantage' (Darwin and Seward, 1903, pp. 270-1). Hesaid he had just completed a new edition of the Origin ofSpecies which was already at the press and concluded witha bit of a tease about Wallace's preferred phrase: 'Theterm Natural Selection has now been so largely usedabroad and at home that I doubt whether it could be givenup, and with all its faults I should be sorry to see theattempt made. Whether it will be rejected must nowdepend "on the survival of the fittest". As in time theterm must grow intelligible the objections to its use willgrow weaker and weaker' (p. 271).

What Darwin said here adumbrates Richard Rorty's(1989, chs. 1-2) theory of the literalization of metaphors- one way of describing the history of science. Scientificideas begin life as metaphors, retaining richness andambiguity as the theory develops. As it leads to more andmore settled findings, the life and range of possibilitiesslowly fade from it, leaving only literal truths and less andless research to be done. People become so familiar withit that they cease to experience it as a metaphor. I'll returnto this theory in my conclusion.

Darwin did not accept Wallace's advice. Was he merelyspeaking loosely? Is he alone? I'll take the argument intwo directions. First, I will confirm your worst fears andthen I'll try to give a more mundane version of my point.By 'confirm your worst fears', I mean that you mightthink I will plunge headlong into animism, panpsychism

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Darwin's metaphor comes alive in this speculative reconstruction ofhow prehuman co-operation and thus evolution arose from driving

or some other semi-mystical philosophy of science. Well,in a way I want to say that this was an utterly respectablepoint of wiew in the mid-nineteenth century. The fatherof the modern philosophy of science, William Whewell,who coined the terms 'physicist', 'anode', 'cathode', andmany more, did see the matter in just these terms.

He wrote - not sloppily and not crazily - that we haveto think of concepts such as 'cause', 'matter', 'force', allkey terms in science, as analogous to human intentions.Indeed, he says of the concept of force, 'The originalmeaning of the Greek word was muscle or tendon. Its firstapplication as an abstract term is accordingly to muscularforce . . . The property by which bodies affect eachother's motions was naturally likened to that energy which

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away rival predators. This 'survival of the fittest' complements EdwardO. Wilson's Sociobiology

we exert upon them with similar effect . . . Thus man'sgeneral notion of force was probably first suggested by hismuscular exertions,' and we always have this comparisonimplicit when we use the concept of force (Whewell, 1840,vol. 1, p. 178). He concludes that the concept of force'arises with our consciousness of our own muscular exer-tions' (p. 179). He goes on to say the same thing ofsolidity and our concept of matter: we derive the conceptof matter by extension of the concept of force through ourown efforts. He says 'conceptions of Force, Matter,Solidity, and Inertness' and indeed the touch sense orproprioception are also learned from our muscular frame,and it 'is the main instrument of our perceptions of space'(pp. 180-4).

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His is a position in a large debate in the nineteenthcentury among phenomenalists, idealists, realists and pos-itivists, in which the questions 'What do we mean bythese terms?' and 'To what do we refer them?' werecarefully considered. Whewell was saying that we meansomething that is based finally on human intentions,human experiences, that our conceptions of nature areinextricably connected to our concepts of human purpo-siveness. The official story is that Whewell lost this fight;the philosophy of science on the whole turned itself awayfrom this point of view. Even so, it was a perfectlyrespectable position to hold in the period when Darwinwas writing and, as I have argued elsewhere, has alwaysbeen just beneath the surface in the biological sciences(Young, 1989a).

The second example I'll give is Alfred Russel Wallacehimself. Some people write dismissively of Wallace thathe became a spiritualist and mystic, but the perspectivethat he took forward in his philosophy of nature, of matterand mind, were perfectly reputable positions at the time,and it's only people who don't do their historical home-work who don't understand that.

In 1870, he wrote a famous paper in the Darwinliterature, 'The limits of natural selection as applied toman', in which he departs from Darwin's utterly consist-ent application of natural selection as applied to man andargues that we cannot deploy naturalistic explanations inevery sphere. But it is not that aspect of Wallace'sthinking to which I want to draw attention. What I wantto emphasize is a set of concepts about matter, mind andforce in which he ends up saying, with Whewell, that allforce has to be considered analogous to will-force. Heargues that the concept of human will lies behind thephysicists' concept of force and that we can't escape thisconnection when we write and think about nature. Thatdoesn't make physical force into human will, but it says

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we cannot escape the relationship to human intention andhuman imagination.

To put it in the terms of the point I'm trying to makein this article: we can't finally divest ourselves completelyof the humanocentric and metaphorical overtones of theseconcepts, even in the basic issues of physics itself. Naturalselection doesn't thereby become a deviant form of physicsbut something which leads us to scrutinize concepts suchas gravity, matter and force again. And if you look at thelast section of Wallace's essay on 'The limits of naturalselection as applied to man', you'll see him making thisargument at some length: 'If, therefore, we have tracedone force, however minute, to an origin in our own will,while we have no knowledge of any other primary causeof force, it does not seem an improbable conclusion thatall force may be will-force' (Wallace, 1891, p. 212).

As I've said, there was a heated debate in nineteenth-century philosophy of science around these issues. One ofmy former students, Roger Smith, wrote a very interestingdissertation on it and is likely to return to the topic(Smith, 1970, 1972, 1973). It was a profound debate inthe sense that its participants tried to talk about how werelate to reality by getting off the subject-object-mirrortheory that is traditional in empiricist epistemology andon to a theory of knowledge in which our humanity andour active relationship with the world lead to our under-standing. What Whewell and Wallace held was thatlearning is not passive but is the consequence of what wedo. Therefore, proprioception rather than perceptionbecomes the model for learning. (I have elsewhere devel-oped other aspects of this way of thinking: see Young,1990a.)

This line of thinking, which says that the humanocen-tric, the anthropomorphic, the evaluative, the subjectivecannot finally be purged from scientific explanation iscommon parlance in the biological sciences. It's absolutelynormal. And it need not be restricted to biology. When

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Newton applied the concept of gravitas to the relationsbetween bodies, he, too, was speaking metaphorically.Gravitas did not have the literal meaning we now associatewith the mutual attraction between bodies. It was a humanattribute. And we still have no idea what gravity is. Iremember the first physical science course I ever took.On about the third day I went up to my professor andsaid, 'What is a force?' And he said, 'That is a questionwhich you must not ask. The only answer you will get isthat it is the product of mass and acceleration; beyondthat we do not speak in science.' He was saying this withirony.

I am saying that Darwin was not alone, and the issueraised by his rhetoric takes us to the heart of the problemof the theory of knowledge in science and more generally.Indeed, the concept of cause, in its original Greekexpression, meant 'coming to be' - how things come tobe. It wasn't about billiard balls, and it wasn't aboutaction at a distance. There were four kinds of coming tobe in Aristotelian explanation: material, efficient, formaland final causes. An explanation required all four ele-ments: that from which - the material element; that whichimparted motion or change; the shape or form or type;that for which - the purpose or goal. This organic schemeof explanation was carved up and stripped of its anthro-pomorphic dimensions in favour of a mechanistic schemeof explanation which privileged the notions of matter,motion and number.

• SCIENCE AS METAPHORNow, I will get to the generalization and I will give youno more long passages from Darwin. New modes ofthinking are expressed figuratively, and there is a wholenew philosophy of science and culture which is beginningto take this seriously, to reorient the understanding ofscience around that approach. And, of course, it hasimplications for whether or not we separate science from

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the arts, from literature and the rest of culture. Theanswer is that it is quite silly to make that separation. Iwrote a book called Darwin's Metaphor; a former colleagueof mine, Gillian Beer, has written a book called Darwin'sPlots, and so it goes.

The history of science can therefore be seen not as ahistory of discovery but as a history of metaphor. This ispart of a way of thinking in which we see that truth ismade and not found. It is made by the use of the richlanguage of the human imagination drawing on whateverresonances seem appropriate and whatever people findhelpful. Indeed, my first philosophy teacher, RichardRorty, whose ideas I shall outline for the remainder ofthis essay, gave a series of lectures, titled 'Metaphor', onthis very matter (1986), which he later adapted for hiscollection of essays, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity(1989). He says that intellectual history should be seen asthe history of metaphor (Rorty, 1989, p. 16). The distinc-tion that we make is not between the figurative on the onehand and the literal on the other, but between the familiarand the unfamiliar. Whether or not we consider somethingmetaphorical is a matter of people's cultural experience,because all human expression draws on human experienceand has a variety of overtones. Literalness is a form ofdeadness, from the point of view of the theoretical poten-tial and richness of human expression. The unfamiliarinspires us to theorise, while the familiar becomes banaland is finally sloughed off like old dead skin.

According to Rorty, the history of metaphor is ratherlike Darwin's theory of the history of coral reefs. Oldmetaphors are constantly dying off into literalness andthen serving as a platform or a soil for new metaphors.That analogy lets us think of our language, includingour scientific language, as something that takes shapecontingently rather than as a search for truth 'out there'.Another former colleague, Mary Hesse, says, as a conse-quence of this situation, 'scientific revolutions become

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metaphoric redescriptions of nature rather than insightinto die intrinsic nature of nature' (Rorty, 1989, p. 16).

We don't become closer to nature itself or things inthemselves, but we do represent significant parts of ourculture. Indeed, once Kant put a distance between thephenomena and the interpretive action of categories, theconcept of metaphor was on its way. It's only a matter ofwhat you choose to call it, once you have postulated thatspace in knowledge between the thing in itself and itsrepresentation. Paradigms, that is, the Kuhnian concept,are only a scientized form of metaphor and are conse-quently slightly more acceptable to the scientificcommunity.

There is already a literature on this that I didn't knowor didn't know that I knew. There is the work of S. C.Pepper on world hypotheses in which he talks about crudemetaphors in culture. He lists them and has a wholeschema based on it. There is also Vaihinger's The Philos-ophy ofAs-If, which he says that 'all knowledge, if it goesbeyond simple actual succession and co-existence, canonly be analogical. . . metaphors are the main indispens-able fictions of all of thought' (Vaihinger, 1953, p. 29).So, to be metaphorical is to be figurative, not literal. Tobe literal is really to stop things dead. To be figurative isto leave spaces, branch points, something open. A closestudy of the ways in which Darwin's metaphor of naturalselection does this shows just how fruitfully ambiguous itwas (Young, 1985b, ch. 4).

Indeed, if you look at a standard dictionary definitionof metaphor, it is 'a figure of speech in which a name or adescriptive term is transferred to some object which insome way is different from, but still analogous to, that towhich it is properly applicable' (OED, 1971). A metaphoropens up a space. It's a space, however, in which theboundary between the aesthetic and the explanatory iscompletely blurred. That is why it's rich, because of thevagueness. Not just a simile, with the preposition 'like'

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left out. It is the use of one part of experience to illuminateanother. See it this way and say that 'it is this' and seewhat you can get out of it, instead of 'this is like that'(Pepper, 1973, p. 197).

Now these are not wholly new theories. Aristotle wrote,in a cautionary way, about metaphor. By the sixteenthcentury it was being said that men will sooner discovertruth by allegory or metaphor than by other means. Atreatise on rhetoric of 1553 says, 'A metaphor is analteration of a word from the proper and natural meaningto that which is not proper and yet agreeth by somelikeness that appeareth to be in it' (OED).

If we stop exploring the definitions and ask what itwould be like to have non-metaphorical concepts, I findthat I've reached the point that I can't imagine what itwould be like to strip them of the resonances which makethem redolent of human meaning. I simply don't knowwhat it would be like to have a language of that kind, inwhich people could communicate, in which they couldevoke things in other people. It would be simply like onecomputer speaking to another. We reach a point herewhere although metaphor assumes that there is somethingelse which isn't metaphorical, it's hard to imagine what itwould be like for us to communicate in that way - to haveunmediated expressions, unresonant, un-nuanced, closed,settled, finished. It doesn't sound like human conscious-ness to me.

Rorty argues, in a way that I am in some doubt about,that intellectual progress can be seen as the literalizationof selected metaphors. I object to the concept of literali-zation for the reason I have just given: I can't imaginehow it could be a part of communication if it was fullyliteralized. He says the history of thought is the history ofself-creation rather than discovery of truth, that is, thehistory of metaphor. And Kuhn says that new metaphorsmake intellectual and moral progress possible.

All of this, of course, would be welcome if we could

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abandon science as the paradigm mode of discourse towhich others are more or less favourably compared. Whyshould we seek to have human projects underwritten bynon-human authority? It seems bizarre. A large historical

.example is the whole effort to naturalize value systemsassociated with social Darwinism and functionalist socialtheory. Social Darwinism attempted to base ethical andeconomic principles on a highly competitive notion ofnature's laws, and functionalist social theory tries to usemodels drawn from physiology to justify models ofsociety. It's the reigning principle in certain aspects ofpsychology, anthropology, sociology - the belief thatcertain models to do with stability, structure, function,adaptation and the concept of the organism, somehowmake theories of society more true because they areanalogous to biological theory (Young, 1981).

If we think about metaphors and anthropomorphism inthe way I am suggesting, we are forced to conclude thatthere is no such thing as first philosophy. We shouldn'ttreat metaphysics as most basic or language as most basicor the philosophy of science as most basic. There are onlymore or less illuminating and evocative enquiries; thereare only things that people find more or less useful ingetting on with whatever their projects are.

• PHILOSOPHICAL PARADIGMSWhen I went to university, from Texas, I was a Biblicalliteralist. I believed in the literal truth of every word inthe Bible. It was painful to give that up. I cannot conveyto you how painful it was. What beckoned, however, wassomething that seemed to meet the same needs: philos-ophy, logic, science - the same kind of search for certaintybut without the guilt. After my first year, I took home abook on logic as my summer reading because I wanted tolearn 'how to think'. I still have this book: Introduction toLogic by Irving M. Copi (1953). Neatly printed on theflyleaf I find: 'Read summer 1954'. It starts out by telling

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one all sorts of fallacies to be avoided if one wants to berational. I copied them out. There is 'irrelevant con-clusion', 'appeal to force', argumentum ad hominem, 'argu-ment from ignorance', 'appeal to pity', argumentum adpopulum, 'appeal to authority', post hoc ergo propter hoc,'complex question', 'equivocation', 'amphibole' (the wayoracles speak, for example, what was said to Oedipus),'accent' (that is fallacies due to stress), 'fallacies of com-position'. If one is to learn to avoid bad habits of mind,one must also eschew Bacon's idols: of the tribe (inherentin human nature), the cave (personal prejudices), themarket-place (tyranny of words), the theatre (receivedsystems of thought) and the schools (blindly followinglogician's rules). Having dutifully studied these rules andnostrums, I was sad to discover that I still hadn't learnedto think.

When I moved into the history and philosophy ofscience, there were equally serious warnings, caveats, thatwe must separate the context of discovery from the contextof justification, or testability, or falsifiability. We mustpolice the boundary between fact and values, betweenscience and culture, between science and ideology.

Well, it's a quarter of a century since I was being taughtthose things, and I want to begin the bit just before myfinal comment by saying that all I know that is of any useor interest has come from indulging in fallacies - especiallythe genetic and the pathetic. Everything said aboutDarwin in this essay and what he said about naturecommits the pathetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy is lookinginto the origins in culture and the motives in people forasking questions in science and for framing criteria foracceptable answers. Most of what I know about nature isanthropomorphic. Most of what I know about knowledgeis metaphoric and ideological and the result of pursuingmore and more outlandish articulations under the bannerof'studying over-determination'.

But this sort of knowledge puts one - as a student of

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the human and biological sciences - on the defensive. Isay this because, when I was a graduate student, theparadigm case of knowledge was physics, the model bywhich all other forms of knowledge would measure them-

. selves. Case studies, readers (I think of Feigl and Brod-beck, Weiner), courses, jobs - all pointed to the projectof making all other forms of knowledge accountable to, orat least deferential to, the physico-chemical sciences,while philosophy deferred to scientific knowledge as pre-eminent (I am thinking of Reichenbach and Pap as keytexts in that period).

Rorty has a lovely essay on this in the last chapter of hisbook, Consequences of Pragmatism. He says that the goalsin those days were to get philosophy out of the humanitiesand into the sciences. I well remember when, in 1969,1gave a paper called 'Persons, organisms . . . and primaryqualities', in which I showed how physiology and biologyhad always broken the rules of explanation - the officialparadigm of explanation - of modern science. Forexample, Descartes says, in his Discourse on Method, thatwe must look to Harvey 'who has broken the ice in thismatter' and has shown the way we must treat all the restof knowledge: the heart is a pump and only the mechanicalrelations in the body are of significance. Yet Harvey saysnothing of the kind, nothing of the kind at all. He was anunrepentant Aristotelian, and yet here is Descartes tryingto make him into a mechanistic philosopher.

If we look at the writings of von Haller, the father ofmodern physiology, his key concepts were 'irritability','contractility', 'sensibility' - rather like those of Darwinwe've been looking at above. You can tell the wholehistory of biology and especially of physiology in theseterms. A perfectly respectable current concept in physiol-ogy is 'inherent rhythmycity' (an attribute of the heart'spacemaker fibres). How are those for reductionistconcepts?

When I gave a paper to this effect to the British Society

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for the Philosophy of Science it was met with stonysilence, as though I'd made a rude noise. I was soshattered that I did not seek to publish the essay, thoughI mined it many times, until I developed the confidenceto offer it to a Festschrift for John Greene (Young, 1989a).But now, two decades later, the boot is on the other foot.The positivists, the physicalists, the realists, the demar-cationists and other sons and daughters of that paradigmof explanation of modern science, are in full retreat.

The injunction of Newton: from the phenomena ofmatter and motion to deduce all the other phenomena(and don't mention all his hermetical writings) is gone.Similarly the claim from Galileo: the Book of Nature iswritten in the language of mathematics. The philosophyof science doesn't really see that model as paradigmaticany more. Instead, we think of science in terms of socialrelations, in terms of a labour process, and increasingly asa form of culture. And philosophy, far from being ahandmaiden of science, so far from being a natural kindof knowledge is, according to Rorty, just the name of oneof the pigeon-holes into which humanistic culture isdivided for administrative and bibliographic purposes.

Natural selection - Darwin's metaphor - needn't there-fore embarrass us now, because it's allowed. It's allowedonce again to acknowledge the purposiveness, the finalcauses, the analogies to human intention, embedded inour concepts of and about nature. We need no longeraccept Whitehead's sad comment on the results of thescientific revolution. This would be the consequence, ifwe really took the prohibition from speaking in metaphor-ical terms seriously:

Thus the bodies are perceived as with qualities whichin reality do not belong to them, qualities which in factare purely the offspring of the mind. Thus nature getscredit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves:the rose for its scent: the nightingale for his song: and

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the sun for his radiance. The poets are entirely mis-taken. They should address their lyrics to themselves,and should turn them into odes of self-congratulationof the excellency of the human mind. (Whitehead,1985, p. 69)

For, on a strict reading of the official model of explanationof mechanist, reductionist science, none of these are theproperties of nature. 'Nature is a dull affair, soundless,scentless, colourless; merely the hurrying of material,endlessly, meaninglessly' (ibid.).

Two concluding thoughts. Once we open our ways ofthinking about nature to the richness of the human mind,then we should lower the boundary between our under-standing of natural processes in conscious terms and therole of unconscious processes in our relations with theworld - a reintegration of inner and outer. There arephilosophers and psychoanalysts who have begun to dothis, for example, D. W. Winnicott, Wilfred Bion, HaroldSearles, Donald Meltzer, Karl Figlio. That project shouldbe integrated with what I have argued here, and I havemade some efforts to begin to make the connections, butI don't yet feel up to doing it in the same breath.

Lastly, I want to take stock of some wider issuesaffected by debates about Darwin and biological theoriesas they bear on official models of explanation in thehistory and philosophy of science. Although there are lotsof laggards and holdouts, from where I sit, the good folkshave won three victories. Firstly, the Malthus-Darwinlink is established and clinches the constitutive role ofideology at the heart of scientific theorising. Secondly, themetaphorical nature of fundamental concepts in so-calledbasic sciences - affinity, gravity, natural selection - dis-solves the barrier between scientific discourse and othermodes of expression. Thirdly, the persistent and funda-mental role of anthropomorphic and teleological expla-nations in basic science shows that the banishment of final

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causes never happened. Back to the drawing board; backto the Renaissance; bring on a science integrated withbroader worldviews, rich modes of expression and theintegration of fact and value: moral science.

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_____ (1989c) 'Transitional phenomena: production and consumption', in B.Richards, ed. Crisis of the Self: Further Essays on Psychoanalysis and Politics.London: Free Association Books, pp. 57-74.

_____ (1990a) 'Evocative knowledge: countertransference and human communi-cation'. Unpublished typescript.

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_____ (1992) 'Science, ideology and Donna Haraway', Science as Culture 3: 7-46._____ (forthcoming) Mental Space. London: Free Association Books.

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