Philosophy Seminar Series: 19 Jan 2012, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Paul Thomas, Professor in Political Science, UC Berkeley; Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson
Rousseau is integral to my argument here—he is no pendant, no “bonus,”—because Darwin’s concept of natural selection, for all its originality, perhaps unexpectedly brings to the fore the lesser-known, less notorious concept of perfectibility that Rousseau arrayed in his Second Discourse (the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality). Perfectibility too, on Rousseau’s prescient understanding of it, “is no design, no plan, no blueprint.” It has no aim, no goal; it opens no doors for us. Like Darwin’s natural selection, it reminds us that patterning is one thing, purpose or design something else again. Darwin, that is to say, is of invaluable assistance in helping us understand one of Rousseau’s most central, but least understood concepts, perfectibility; and it is this very concept of perfectibility that can, in its turn, help us assess what is, and what is not, of presentday significance about Darwin’s deployment of natural selection.