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Not by DesignRetiring Darwin's Watchmaker$
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John Reiss

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780520258938

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520258938.001.0001

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Cuvier and the Principle of the Conditions for Existence

Cuvier and the Principle of the Conditions for Existence

Chapter:
(p.85) 5 Cuvier and the Principle of the Conditions for Existence
Source:
Not by Design
Author(s):

John O. Reiss

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520258938.003.0005

This chapter focuses on Georges Cuvier and his principle of the conditions for existence. Cuvier was in every sense a child of the Enlightenment, and brought a critical, rational attitude to the understanding of organisms. His conservatism, combined with his broad appreciation of the philosophical issues involved, allowed him to find a solution to the problem of teleology, when so many before him had failed. The chapter begins with Cuvier's biographical background, moves on to his works in the context of Enlightenment science, and then discusses the enunciation of Cuvier's principle, reviewing its philosophical origins and significance. It also discusses the influence of Cuvier's principle in France and Germany. In particular, Cuvier's Kantian principle of the conditions for existence influenced German “teleomechanism,” Comte's positive philosophy, and Claude Bernard's foundation of experimental biology.

Keywords:   George Cuvier, conditions for existence, teleology, France, Germany, teleomechanism, positive philosophy, experimental biology

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