David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 32 (1):1-29 (2001)
This paper traces conceptual links between the works of Georges Cuvier and Auguste Comte. The primary conceptual link between the two, and the focus of this paper, is the ‘principle of the conditions of existence’. This principle lies at the heart of Cuvier's theoretical biology and it was adopted by Comte, in modified form, to serve as a foundational concept for his comprehensive and biologically oriented natural philosophy. Contrary to popular interpretations of Cuvier's thought, it is argued that both Cuvier and Comte understood the principle of the conditions of existence as the basis for a non-teleological form of explanation and a properly scientific alternative to the metaphysics of final causation. This conceptual link is historically significant, for the principle of the conditions of existence was also an important concept for French physiologists of the second half of the nineteenth century, including Claude Bernard, who were highly influenced by Comte's natural philosophy. Tracing the legacy of Cuvier in Comte's natural philosophy should thus clarify the work of both of these thinkers while bringing into focus an important line of nineteenth-century conceptual development.
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References found in this work BETA
Ernan McMullin (1993). Indifference Principle and Anthropic Principle in Cosmology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 24 (3):359-389.
Dorinda Outram (1986). Uncertain Legislator: Georges Cuvier's Laws of Nature in Their Intellectual Context. Journal of the History of Biology 19 (3):323 - 368.
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