“Among Prelates and Primates: From Darwin to Rousseau” by Paul Thomas (19 Jan 2012)

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.

About the speaker: Professor Thomas received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1973. He specializes in Marxism and Political Theory. His books include Karl Marx and the Anarchists (Routledge, 1980), Alien Politics: Marxist State Theory Retrieved (Routledge, 1994), Rational Choice Marxism (co-edited with Terrell Carver, Macmillan, 1995), and Culture and the State (co-authored with David Lloyd, Routledge, 1998). His numerous articles on Marx and Marxism include contributions to The Cambridge Companion to Marx and to the 1998 Socialist Register. He has also written on Rousseau, cinema and other socio-cutural themes. He is currently at work on a book called Scientific Socialism: Career of a Concept.
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.


Comments are closed.