‘Great is Darwin and Bergson his poet’: Julian Huxley's other evolutionary synthesis

Annals of Science 75 (1):40-54 (2018)

Emily Herring
University of Leeds
In 1912, Julian Huxley published his first book The Individual in the Animal Kingdom which he dedicated to the then world-famous French philosopher Henri Bergson. Historians have generally adopted one of two attitudes towards Huxley’s early encounter with Bergson. They either dismiss it entirely as unimportant or minimise it, deeming it a youthful indiscretion preceding Huxley’s full conversion to Fisherian Darwinism. Close biographical study and new archive materials demonstrate, however, that neither position is tenable. The Bergsonian elements in play in Julian Huxley’s early works fed into his first ideas about progress in evolution and even his celebrated theories of bird courtship. Furthermore, the view that Huxley rejected Bergson in his later years needs to be revised. Although Huxley ended up claiming that Bergson’s theory of evolution had no explanatory power, he never repudiated the descriptive power of Bergson’s controversial notion of the élan vital. Even into the Modern Synthesis period, Huxley represented his own synthesis as drawing decisively on Bergson’s philosophy.
Keywords Bergson  Julian Huxley  Modern Synthesis  Evolution
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DOI 10.1080/00033790.2017.1407442
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References found in this work BETA

Julian Huxley and Biological Progress.Robert M. Gascoigne - 1991 - Journal of the History of Biology 24 (3):433-455.
Progress: Biological and Other.Julian S. Huxley - 1922 - Hibbert Journal 21:436.

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