Gene-juggling

Philosophy 54 (210):439 (1979)
Abstract
Genes cannot be selfish or unselfish, any more than atoms can be jealous, elephants abstract or biscuits teleological. This should not need mentioning, but Richard Dawkins's book The Selfish Gene has succeeded in confusing a number of people about it, including Mr J. L. Mackie. What Mackie welcomes in Dawkins is a new, biological-looking kind of support for philosophic egoism. If this support came from Dawkins's producing important new facts, or good new interpretations of old facts, about animal life, this could be very interesting. Dawkins, however, simply has a weakness for the old game of Brocken-spectre moralizing—the one where the player strikes attitudes on a peak at sunrise, gazes awe-struck at his gigantic shadow on the clouds, and reports his observations as cosmic truths. He is an uncritical philosophic egoist in the first place, and merely feeds the egoist assumption into his a priori biological speculations, only rarely glancing at the relevant facts of animal behaviour and genetics, and ignoring their failure to support him. There is nothing empirical about Dawkins. Critics have repeatedly pointed out that his notions of genetics are unworkable. I shall come to this point later, but I shall not begin with it, because, damning though it is, it may seem to some people irrelevant to his main contention. It is natural for a reader to suppose that his over-simplified drama about genes is just a convenient stylistic device, because it seems obvious that the personification of them must be just a metaphor. Indeed he himself sometimes says that it is so. But in fact this personification, in its literal sense, is essential for his whole contention; without it he is bankrupt. His central point is that the emotional nature of man is exclusively self-interested, and he argues this by claiming that all emotional nature is so. Since the emotional nature of animals clearly is not exclusively selfinterested, nor based on any long-term calculation at all, he resorts to arguing from speculations about the emotional nature of genes, which he treats as the source and archetype of all emotional nature. This strange convoluted drama must be untwisted before the full force of the objections from genetics can be understood
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 14,205
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA
R. M. (1993). Booknotes. Biology and Philosophy 8 (1):403-406.

View all 38 citations

Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2010-08-10

Total downloads

45 ( #58,714 of 1,699,425 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #362,609 of 1,699,425 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.