02 September 2014

Political Descent and the Politics of Evolutions

Two quotes that pair nicely with my review of Piers J. Hale's excellent book.
To furnish the most unremitted excitements of this kind, and to urge man to further the gracious designs of Providence, by the full cultivation of the earth, it has been ordained that population should increase much faster than food. This general law (as it has appeared in the former parts of this essay) undoubtedly produces much partial evil, but a little reflection may, perhaps, satisfy us, that it produces a great overbalance of good. Strong excitements seem necessary to create exertion, and to direct this exertion, and form the reasoning faculty, it seems absolutely necessary, that the Supreme Being should act always according to general laws. The constancy of the laws of nature, or the certainty, with which we may expect the same effect, from the same causes, is the foundation of the faculty of reason.
Malthus, Population: The First Essay, 1798 (reprint 1996), pp. 126-7
I might show, for instance, that while man derives great advantages from his highly developed intellectual faculties, the human species in general suffers from them at the same time considerable disadvantages; since these faculties confer the means for doing harm as easily as good, and their general effect is always to the disadvantage of those individuals who make least use of their intelligence, and this is necessarily the case of the greater number. It would appear therefore that the main evil in this respect resides in the extreme inequality of individuals, an inequality that cannot be entirely destroyed. Nevertheless, it may be inferred with still greater certainty that the thing most important for the improvement and happiness of man is to diminish as far as possible this enormous inequality, since it is the origin of most of the evils to which he is exposed.
Lamarck, Zoological Philosophy 1809 (trans. 1959), p. 361


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