The design of nature
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More About This Title The design of nature


The emergence of Biology as a science in the nineteenth century was preceded by an intense and rich reflection on the laws that determine the organization of matter in specific systems – the living beings. In 'The design of nature: organism and purpose in the age of Enlightenment' Pedro Paulo Pimenta reconstitutes some fundamental moments of this history, starting from Hume’s A Treatise of human nature (1740), going through Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790), and arriving at Darwin’s, On the Origin of Species (1859).

The essays collected in this volume address scientific questions through the prism of philosophy to demonstrate how, in the “age of Enlightenment” (or the long Eighteenth Century), philosophers and naturalists strove to define strategies and forge appropriate concepts to explain the phenomena of life in the scientific framework of the time, which was dominated by Newtonian physics. It was imperative to submit the organism to a regularity in order to know its structuring laws and to show the hierarchy of its internal functions, as well as the perpetuation of forms in the different species.

There are two different series of phenomena, which thinkers of the Enlightenment considered from similar models. It is not strange to find in these pages – besides Diderot, who speculates on the machines, and Adam Smith, the prophet of spontaneous organization – the figures of Buffon, Lamarck and Cuvier, who defined the theoretical framework of Darwinism.