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The Writings of Professor Robert M. Young

'Malthus on Man - In Animals no Moral Restraint' 59k

Thirty years ago I wrote an article on the common context of biological and social theory, using Malthus as a key text and exploring how various writers had read him and had come up with very different conclusions: William Paley, Thomas Chalmers, Darwin, Wallace, Spencer, Marx and Engels. This article generated a number of commentaries and refutations, primarily seeking to disprove my conclusions about the connection between Darwin and Malthus and the role of Malthus in the origination of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. I have stood my ground and have argued that quite a lot hangs on the connection. On the occasion of the first invitation I have ever had to deliver a paper to a conference of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine (an ideologically and personally antagonistic director having been forcibly retired), I took the opportinity to reflect on this controversy, bring in some new evidence and draw philosophical conclusions about the role of praxis in human nature, as sanctioned by the first professional social scientist and the founder of modern evolutionary theory. I also urge modern Darwinians to emulate these eminent forbearers in granting a role for praxis in human nature. The paper was presented to a conference on 'Malthus, Medicine and Science' organised by Roy Porter at the Wellcome Institute, London, on 20 March 1998.

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Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

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