Was the Victorian gentleman’s dilemma also Darwin’s? Is it also our dilemma?

Parade, Cusco, Peru, 27. 8. 1989
Parade, Cusco, Peru, 27. 8. 1989

From my point of view, the answer to these questions must be a resounding yes. Victorian gentleman Charles Darwin understood that humans descended from ape ancestors. On the other hand, he was too much of a product of his time not to emphasise the deep gap between humans and animals.

If, like his ideological opponents, he did not wish to attribute the spirit of humankind to a divine act of creation, he could still believe in the self-actualisation of the mind in the Hegelian sense of the word.

In the Phenomenology of Mind, G. F. W. Hegel presented the development of human culture as the self-actualisation of the mind in history through the stages of consciousness, self-confidence, reason, mind, religion and art to absolute knowledge.

In Darwin’s model of cross-pollination of the brain and mind, the mind unfolded as soon as the physical conditions, especially the brain size of pre-historic humans and early humans up to Homo sapiens, allowed it to do so. However, Darwin overlooked that fact that according to his theory of evolution, development is not purposeful or deterministic but rather open-ended.

When Hegel described the self-actualisation of the mind, when a cultural historian described the development of Greek, Roman or renaissance cultures, they all had an ultimate goal in mind, one towards which the development advanced. Darwin also had an ultimate goal in mind in his description of intellectual development up to the human being, namely the English gentleman from the second half of the 19th century.

However, that was exactly the mistake that was the deterministic component, which was not allowed to exist. That was the Münchhausen effect that I described above.

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