Darwin – What if Man is Only an Animal, After All?

Dialectica 64 (4):467-482 (2010)
Abstract
According to Darwin, humans, just like other organisms, are not created by any special act. All organisms arise by natural processes from inanimate matter. Humans are no exception. But can it really be the case that even humans are ‘only’ animals – natural beings which (a) are completely made up of natural parts (in the end, of macro-molecules which themselves consist of atoms), and for which it is (b) true that all processes that occur within them are physico-chemical processes? In recent years some German philosophers (e.g. Habermas and Wingert) have argued that man “is elevated above nature by his capacity for deliberation and his ability to judge and comprehend meanings” (Singer and Wingert 2003, 11). Does this mean that humans are ‘supernatural’ in some way or other? My aim is twofold. Firstly, I point out that even non-human animals to a certain extent have the capacity to deliberate and act for reasons. Secondly, I argue that one can also put forward theoretical considerations in favour of the thesis that entirely natural beings may have this capacity. Thus, my answer to the question of what parts of our accustomed views of humanity and the world must we abandon if even we humans are ‘only’ animals is: nothing or at any rate very little. At least, even if we humans are ‘only’ animals, we may have the capacity for deliberation and the ability to judge and comprehend meanings
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