Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Geology Through Literature - The World As Will and Presentation

The next up on my Geology Through Literature thread is The World as Will and Presentation (AKA The World as Will and Idea) by Arthur Schopenhauer. The version I used was translated by Richard E. Aquila and David Carus. The World as Will and Presentation was initially published in 1818, however subsequent editions (1844 and 1859), make it difficult to ascertain when certain thoughts were initially developed and written down. 

The publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, shows that every edition of the The World as Will and Presentation was before that publication; before evolution was thrust into the public consciousness.  As you can see below, Schopenhauer goes heavily into evolutionary theory without even understanding all of the intricacies that may be involved. He understands not only evolving creatures, but evolving landscapes as well.

This book is a philosophical book that is based on the hypothesis that everything that we perceive can be broken down into two categories, will and idea. You can get my complete thoughts on the book/story over at my other blog - The Remnant, but for here I will just go into the geological or basic scientific aspects that are brought up in the story.

Many of the ideas brought up in this book relate to science and religion, a topic that I am greatly interested in, however generally falls outside of the realm of Geology Through Literature posts. For this post I am going to focus on the scientific aspects, with maybe only a sprinkling of the religious aspects of the work.

Volume 1: Book 1: Chapter 7 - Law of Causality
"...the law of causality and corresponding consideration and investigation of nature nonetheless necessarily lead us to the sure assumption that, within time, every more highly organized state of matter initially followed upon a crude one. For example, animals existed before human beings, fish before terrestrial animals, plants still before these, the inorganic prior to anything organic; so as a consequence, the original mass had to pass through a long series of alterations before the first eye could open."
The law of causality is logic that Schopenhauer had used to discredit the Creationist's view of the world. God could not have created the world from nothing, because then there would be an instant where there was nothing before and something after. However, I feel this could also (partially) apply to the Big Bang Theory, where many scientists are unsure of what was before the infinitesimal point that started our universe and some believe that nothing predated it. This theory though does fall in line with the cyclical theory of the universe, where after the universe expands, it then contracts and begins the process all over again.

Appendix (Page 597 in the original work)
"Spinoza says rightly...that even the stone that one throws, if it had consciousness, would believe it flew of its own free will"
This is rather humorous to consider that if a stone has consciousness, that it would assume that it was moving on it's own.

Volume 2: Chapter 4
"The only correct expression for the law of causality is this: every alteration has its cause in another, immediately preceding alteration. If something happens...then something else must have changed just before that, and so on, ascending ad infinitum; for a first cause is as impossible to think as is a beginning of time or a boundary of space."
See the above comment on the law of causality.

Volume 2: Chapter 18
"For not merely do the highest productions of nature, namely living beings, or the complex phenomena of the inorganic world remain unfathomable to us; but even every rock-crystal, every bit of pyrite, is by virtue of its crystallographic, optical, chemical, electrical properties an abyss of incomprehensibility and mysteries for penetrating consideration and investigation."
It's is amazing to consider how far science has come in the 150-200 years since this was initially published. We are now able to physically see into the crystalline structure of individual minerals. We now know more about minerals than we ever dreamed fathomable back in the 1800's.

Volume 2: Chapter 22
"Nature has equipped every animal with the organs needed for its preservation, the weapons for its thus bestowed upon each of the the most important of the outwardly directed organs, the brain, along with its function, the intellect. The more complex, namely, its organization became, through higher development, the more manifold and specifically determined became its needs, consequently the more difficult and more dependent on opportunity its procurement of their satisfaction. Thus there was need for a wider field of vision, more precise apprehension, and more accurate distinction between things in the external world, in all their circumstances and relations. Accordingly we see powers of presentation and their organs, brain, nerves, and instruments of sense, come ever more completely to the fore, the higher we ascend along the hierarchy of animals; and in proportion as the cerebral system develops, the external world displays itself in consciousness in a manner that is ever more distinct, multifaceted, complete."
He is essentially describing evolution here. More advanced animals take over from more primitive ones. Animals with better vision took over from those with worse vision. Animals with higher cognitive functions took over from those with less. This goes to show that evolution was on people's minds even before Darwin.

Volume 2: Chapter 23
"Through the different combinations produced by the constant change of positions of these three heavenly bodies (the Earth, Moon, and Sun) relative to one another, the movement of the moon is now accelerated, now decelerated, and it now approaches, now recedes from the earth: this however, in turn, differently at the earth's perihelion than at its aphelion, all of which taken together introduces such an irregularity into the course of the moon that it takes on an actual appearance of capriciousness, in that even Kepler's second law no longer remains invariably valid, but rather it describes unequal areas in time."
The moon does actually speed up and slow down, depending on where it is in it's orbit. As stated by Fourmilab:
"When the Moon is closer to the Earth, around perigee, its orbital motion is faster and carries it past the Earth faster than its constant rotation speed. When the Moon is near apogee, its slower orbital motion causes the rotation to get ahead of the orbital motion..."
But Schopenhauer adds that the sun's influence on the moon's orbit causes the speed of the moon to become practically unpredictable. This is not the case in modern day society, only very difficult, because not only does the Earth and Sun affect the moon's orbit but so do other planets, especially Jupiter, with the second largest gravity shadow in the Solar System.

Volume 2: Chapter 24
"However, it seems that the original generation of organic forms, the production of species themselves, is almost as difficult for nature to carry out as for us to comprehend; this is indicated in particular by its so altogether quite inordinate provision for the preservation of species once they exist. Nonetheless, on the present surface of this planet, the will for life has acted out the full range of its objectification three times, entirely independently of one another, with different modulations, but also with great difference in the degree and extent of completeness. Namely, as is well known, the Old World, America, and Australia all have their own unique series of animals, independent of and entirely different from those of the other two. On each of these great continents, the species are altogether different, but yet have, because all three belong to the same planet, a thoroughgoing and running analogy with one another, which is why the genera are for the most part the same. In Australia, this analogy can be pursued only to a very incomplete extent, because its fauna are very impoverished in regard to mammals, and contain neither predators nor apes; by contrast, between the Old World and America the analogy is evident, and in particular in such a way that America always displays the poorer analogue among mammals, but to the contrary the better among birds and reptiles. Thus it certainly has the advantage of the condor, the macaw, the humming-bird, and the largest amphibians and water-snakes; but it h as, e.g., instead of the elephant, only the tapir; instead of the lion, the cougar; instead of the tiger, the jaguar; instead of the camel, the llama; and instead of true apes, only long-tailed monkeys. It may be concluded from this last defect that nature was unable to rise to the development of human beings in America; for even from the closest level below, namely from the chimpanzee and orangutan, or pongo, the step to the human was still inordinately large. Accordingly, we find-equally primordial on indubitable physiological as well as linguistic grounds-the three races of man, the Caucasian, Mongolian, and Ethiopian, only at home in the Old World, with America by contrast populated by a mixed, or climatically modified, Mongolian stock that must have come over from Asia. On the surface of the earth immediately preceding the present, things had developed as far as apes in places, but not as far as human beings."
This is an old view of evolution, where it seems like life evolved completely separately on the different continents. This is long before plate tectonic theory, which has shown that the plates were once connected (many times connected in the past actually). Looking at his hypothesis though, that Australian animal life is the least like the other continents makes sense in a modern context with plate tectonics. This is because it separated off of the main land mass much earlier than the other continents.

I find these old views of science fascinating because they are right in many ways, but also wrong in many ways, and it is where they are wrong that you can pinpoint the evolution of the science.

 Volume 2: Chapter 26
"...every bone of the human hand and arm finds it analogue in the fin of the whale, the skull of the bird in the egg has exactly as many bones as that of the human fetus, and so on. All of this, namely, points to a principle that is independent of teleology, but that is the fundament on which it builds, or pregiven material for its works, and precisely that which Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire has propounded as the 'anatomical element'" 
Another instance of evolutionary study. Where bones are analogous across species.
Whale fin to human hand comparison.

"...nature does not start from the beginning with every production and create out of nothing, but rather, continuing to write as it were in the same style, adds to what exists, utilizes, develops, and potentiates previous forms so as to carry its work further: just as it has done in the ascending series of animals, entirely in accordance with the rule, 'Nature makes no leaps, and takes the most convenient path in all its operations' (Aristotle, de incessu animalium, chs 2 and 8)"
More evolution. Continued change through time. Starting with the last step and advancing from there.

Volume 2: Chapter 36
" frees the understanding from the bonds of ignorance"
This is just common sense in my book.

Volume 2: Chapter 46
"The fossils of entirely different kinds of animal species formerly inhabiting the planet provide us, as proof of our reckoning, with records of worlds whose subsistence was no longer possible, which were therefore even worse than the worst of those possible."
He is stating that the world is already pretty bad now, but fossils show us that animals unlike modern day animals were worse off in the past because they couldn't survive in that world. With this Schopenhauer is describing changing climates. That not only does the animals change (through evolution) but the land is also changing. He grasps, back in the early 1800's, that we live in an ever evolving world. Something that many people in the modern don't understand or grasp.


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