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FRANZ M.

WUKETITS

EVOLUTIONARY EPISTEMOLOGY - A CHALLENGE TO


SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

There could be no fairer destiny for any ...


theory than that it should point the way to
a more comprehensive theory in which it lives
on, as a limiting case.
Albert Einstein
Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake
of any definite answers to its questions ... ,
but rather for the sake of the questions themselves ...
Bertrand Russell

1. INTRODUCTION

"In the future I see open fields for ... important researches. Psychology will
be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer,
that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by
gradation." Thus Charles Darwin wrote in On the Origin of Species;! in the
sequel he announced: "Much light will be thrown on the origin of man and
his history."2 And Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin's famous advocate,
predicted that Darwin's own work, "if you take it as the embodiment of a
hypothesis ... is destined to be the guide of biological and psychological
speculation for the next three or four generations." 3 Since Darwin, much
light has indeed been thrown on the origin of man, his history and his place
in nature, and Huxley's prediction has proved to be true.
Darwin's work was, of course, a corner-stone in the history of the biological sciences. But what has it really meant for psychology? In what way
has it been a guide of 'psychological speculation'? Initially we may answer
thus: Darwin's studies of man's nature at least meant a plea for intensifying
theoretical and empirical work in evolutionary psychology. Unfortunately
it is not yet common knowledge that - as M. T. Ghiselin has pointed out 4
- Darwin devoted a considerable part of his studies to the behaviour of
organisms and therefore to psychology in its widest sense. As to human
F. M. Wuketits (ed.), Concepts and Approaches in Evolutionary Epistemology, 1-33.
1984 by D. Reidel Publishing Company.

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

behaviour in his The Descent of Man (1871) Darwin worked out some evolutionary principles in relation to man's mental abilities, e.g. self-consciousness,
language and morality. It is true that in some passages of this book he relied
heavily on Herbert Spencer's evolutionary conceptions. However, his evolutionist view of psychological phenomena has, on the whole, been an original
contribution to psychology, for, unlike Spencer's approach, it was founded
on a mass of empirical evidence and did not lack scientific rigour. In general,
this view means "that subhuman animals too can have a mental life, that
ideation is a bodily process, and that it is subject to natural selection just
like any other biofunction". 5
The evolutionary view of the human mind, proposed by Spencer and then
elaborated by Darwin, consequently included an attempt to understand man's
faculties of cognition and knowledge by means of evolutionary theory and
particularly the theory of natural selection. Evolutionary psychology in the
nineteenth century was therefore the overture to evolutionary epistemology.
In short, evolutionary epistemology is an epistemological system which is
based upon the conjecture that cognitive activities are a product of evolution
and selection and that, vice versa, evolution itself is a cognition and knowledge process. According to D. T. Campbell "an evolutionary epistemology
would be at minimum an epistemology taking cognizance of and compatible
with man's status as a product of biological and social evolution".6
In this essay I shall outline some of the basic postulates of the evolutionary
view in epistemology and the systematic position of such a view in science
and philosophy. Furthermore, I shall, implicitly, give a brief account of the
history of evolutionary epistemology. Thus the reader may take his bearings
on the different approaches to an evolutionary theory of knowledge and
become aware of the interdisciplinary nexus of this theory. I also hope
that the following sections will make clearer the coherence of the different
contributions to the present volume.
2. THE NOTION OF THE INNATE - IMMANUEL KANT
AND BEYOND

In Western philosophy since Plato it has been a matter of controversy, whether


man's epistemic capacities are, in some way or another, innate. It has often
been argued that there are certain dispositions, which are 'self-evident', so
to speak, and that these dispositions exist before any individual learning and
experience. The other point of view has been that of the tabula rasa, that is
to say the assertion that knowledge can start from nothing. However, many

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

philosophers have assumed certain intellectual ideas as a fact a priori and,


more recently, psychologists and anthropologists have maintained that mental
as well as cultural and social structures depend on pre-existing patterns of
pSYGhological, cultural and social organization. Table I shows, on the right,
the most eminent notions of this view, and on the left, the most well known
authors of these notions. 7
TABLE I
Plato (427 - 347 B.C.)
Aristotle (384 - 322 B.C.)
Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)
David Hume (1711 - 1776)
Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650)
Gottfried W. Leibniz (1646 - 1716)
Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804)
Hermann von Helmholtz (1821 - 1894)
Konrad Lorenz (born 1903)
Jean Piaget (1896 -1980)
Carl G. Jung (1875 - 1961)
Claude Levi-Strauss (born 1908)
Noam Chomsky (1928 - 1978)

abstract ideas
axioms of logic
idola tribus (e.g. form perception)
instincts
rust principles (e.g. man's own existence)
essential truths of mathematics and logic;
intellectual ideas (e.g. substance)
the 'causes' for the 'forms of intuition'
(Anschauungs[ormen) and categories
'ideation of space' (three-dimensionality
of space)
elementary patterns of behaviour; 'forms
of intuition' and categories
'norms of reaction'; elementary structures
of perception
archetypes (e.g. anima)
(ethnical) 'structures' (e.g. marriage types,
structures of kinship)
generative grammar

In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) Immanuel Kant took a decisivie


step by trying to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable epistemological
positions, namely empiricism and rationalism. Kant's 'critical philosophy'
contains the well-known distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge. According to Kant our knowledge is in part a priori and not inferred
from experience; on the other hand, it is also in part a posteriori and based on
experience gained by sensory perception. If, for brevity's sake, we simplify
Kant's epistemology, we can state that human knowledge is composed of
both a priori and a posteriori propositions and these propositions, mutually
related to each other, make possible our knowledge of the world.
Kant's assumptions also mean that much of the striking conformity

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

between patterns of the external world and patterns of our thought is determined by pre-existing, i.e. a priori structures, the 'categories' and 'forms
of intuition' (Anschauungsformen), of any subject which experiences them.
Kant's epistemological doctrine was certainly a consistent philosophical
system and a refreshing outlook. After Kant, however, one problem remained;
this was the question: 'Where do a priori structures come from?' Yet in the
framework of Kant's system of thought this question was not, and is not,
a matter for discussion. But beyond this system and especially with regard
to an evolutionary interpretation of man this is an intriguing question. Since
Kant science and philosophy - except for the 'idealistic philosophy' have been confronted again and again by the relativity of categories. Here
we can find a connection between Kant and modern evolutionary theory,
between Kant's 'apriorism' and the evolutionary explanation of epistemic
phenomena. Evolutionary epistemology is mainly an attempt to explain
a priori structures of our knowledge via evolution and to 'dynamize' these
structures.
Does this mean that evolutionary epistemology is a reversed Kantian
philosophy? Let us, first of all, take a look at two very recent evolutionary
attempts to explain man's cognitive faculties: the conceptions of Konrad
Lorenz and Rupert Riedl. 8 The approach of Lorenz has been an ethological
one, whereas Riedl's view primarily relies upon comparative biology and
was the result of a theory concerned with the order in living systems, i.e. a
systems approach to organismic evolution. 9 In both cases Kant's categories
of thought and intuition can be seen as evolutionary products.
Lorenz has argued that evolution is a cognition process and that life is,
in general, a process of learning; and he has exposed the innate teaching
mechanisms which are prerequisites for the surival of any species. In his own
words, "one has to postulate the existence of innate teaching mechanisms in
order to explain why the majority of learning processes serve to enhance the
organism' fitness for survival"; 10 furthermore, "these mechanisms ... meet
the Kantian definition of the a priori: they were there before all learning,
and must be there in order for learning to be possible." 11 Riedl summarizes
his view as:
Among all cognitive methods possible, the one which recognizes the environment most
efficiently and reliably had to be selected ... The prerequisites of human thinking,
though a priori for each individual in the sense of Kant, are a posteriori for the chain
of his pedigree. 12

These have been biological approaches to the relativity of the a priori. But

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

it is also necessary to mention here the epistemologcial view of Karl R.


Popper, as a recent philosophical approach which results in an evolutionary
conceptionP When Popper's theory is compared to the theories of Lorenz
and Riedl, it turns out that these are different approaches to the same problem and with the same results. Popper writes: "I contend that the leading
ideas of epistemology are logical rather than factual; despite this, all of its
examples, and many of its problems, may be suggested by studies of the
genesis of knowledge." 14 This contention shows that Popper attached great
importance to an evolutionary perspective in epistemology. Moreover, his
own contribution to such a perspective has become obvious in regard to the
philosophy of science or, in a narrower sense, in regard to methodology.
I here refer to his studies of the 'nature' of hypotheses and/or theories. A
brief quotation may suffice in this context:
... the growth of our knowledge is the result of a process closely resembling what Darwin called 'natural selection'; that is, the natural selection of hypotheses: our knowledge
consists, at every moment, of those hypotheses which have shown their (comparative)
fitness by surviving so far in their struggle for existence.! 5

Thus, Popper advocates, as Campbell had already deomonstrated,!6 a 'naturalselection epistemology' or, a 'natural-selection methodology'.
The basic idea underlying these evolutionist conceptions (K. Lorenz,
R. Riedl, K. R. Popper) is that
(i) cognition, be it in the subhuman or in the human world, cannot start
from nothing and that, therefore,
(ii) the existence of inborn mechanisms is very probable. So the first
postulate 0/ evolutionary epistemology can be firmly stated as follows:
All organisms are equipped with a system o/innate dispositions; no individual
living system is initially a 'clean slate' or tabula rasa.

Innate dispositions, like the above-mentioned inborn teaching mechanisms,


are by no means static structures, but rather are dynamic elements of an
organismic system, products of evolutionary processes. Any modern theory
concerned with the notion of innateness must be based on the phenomenon
of evolution and, consequently, on a dynamic world view. The emergence
of evolutionary thought in the course of the nineteenth (and, though just
allusively, even the eighteenth) century was rendered possible by the 'dynamization of the world view' and the abandonment of the classical notions of
scala naturae, which had greatly influenced philosophical and scientific

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

thinking from Plato to the forerunners of Darwin (e.g. J. Lamarck)P Hence


the second postulate of evolutionary epistemology is this:
Innate dispositions are the outcome of natural selection; they are the products of selective mechanisms, which, among all 'initial products', favour and
stabilize the one which best copes with the conditions of living and surviving.
The behaviourist's failure is, despite the grain of truth of some behaviouristic presuppositions, the overestimation of learning in the life of the individual organism. Some
behavioural patterns of a living being are possibly acquired through individuallife-experience and introjected by the environment; the great error of behaviourism, however,
arises "from forgetting that adaptedness to environment can never be a coincidence but
must necessarily have a history explaining it." 18 That should be enough to refute the
behaviouristic doctrine.

Since Darwin the evolutionary interpretation of innate mechanisms has


been adopted by many researchers. The history of these interpretations
is largely an account of evolutionary interpretations of the Kantian a priori;
and it is, par excellence, the history of evolutionary epistemology. Campbell
has already provided a historical perspective on evolutionary epistemology.19
I shall refer to Campbell's account, and I shall also refer to other scholars
not mentioned in his review.
Among biologists, about a hundred years ago, the famous German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel in his popular writings clearly expressed the phylogenetic
relativity of the human mind and, implicitly, interpreted man's cognitive
abilities by the means of evolutionary theory in the sense of Darwin's 'selectionism'.20 Haeckel, therefore, was a forerunner of evolutionary epistemology
in a more recent sense, although his 'biological philosophy' was, on the
whole, a rather one-sided view. Independent of and opposed to the Darwinian
method of looking at evolution, the French Philosopher Henri Bergson and
the German biologist Jakob von Uexkilll at the beginning of the twentieth
century proposed a view similar to that of evolutionary epistemology, a view
which is of a certain significance for the evolutionary theory of knowledge.
Bergson and von Uexkii11 continued the vitalist tradition and partly rejected
Darwin's theory,21 but it is not possible to offer here a detailed description
of Bergson's and von Uexkiill's conceptions. However, it might be sufficient
to recall their assessments of plan and purpose in living nature and von
Uexkiill's notion of the Umwelt. Likewise Georg Simmel, anticipating Bergson
and von Uexkilll, noted "that the phenomenal worlds of animals differ from
one to the other, according to the particular aspects of the world they are
adapted to and the different sense organs they have." 22

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

As regards the 'dynamization' of the Kantian approach, we must be aware


of some authors, primarily biologists, who since the foundation of evolutionary theory have pleaded for a reorientation in epistemology, i.e. for a
biological theory of cognition and knowledge. In some cases, of course, the
interpretation of the a priori by the means of evolutionary biology has been
considered only briefly and not explicitly. But some authors have stated the
phylogenetic relativity of categories quite obviously. For example, a book
by the German biologist Paul Flaskiimper surprisingly has a chapter entitled
'Biological Epistemology' and Flaskiimper's attitude towards biological conceptions of knowledge transgresses the boundaries of Kantian philosophy.23
Since the 1940s many biologists have emphasized the approach to epistemology 'under the auspices of evolution'. Let me give some examples.
Ludwig von Bertalanffy: the founder of modem systems thinking, discussed the problem of the relativity of categories thirty years ago. At a
later date, in his General System Theory (1968), he summarized: "Cognition
is dependent, firstly, on the psycho-physical organization ... "; and he
continued: "The categories of experience or forms of intuition, to use Kant's
term, are not a universal a priori, but rather they depend on the psychophysical organization and physiological conditions of the experiencing
animals, man inc1uded."24
Although not speaking of the Kantian a priori, Julian Huxley and George
G. Simpson also argue that cognition and mind depend upon biological
structures and fucntions, i.e. that there is a biological foundation of what
we call 'mind' .25 Likewise, most recently and independently of the abovementioned expositions of Lorenz and Riedl, the following authors adopted
the evolutionary view of cognitive capacities both subhuman and human:
Erich Jantsch, Hans Mohr, Jacques Monod, Bernhard Rensch and Conrad
H. Waddington. 26 The eminent psychologist Jean Piaget also explored the
pathways of psychological development in children and expounded his
genetic epistemology.27 It is important to note Eric Lenneberg's account
of the biological foundations of human language 28 and also Noam Chomsky's
concept of generative grammar. 29 I shall refer below to psychological, linguistic and anthropological notions, in so far as they have been relevant to
evolutionary epistemology.
There is one idea common to the approaches considered so far namely
that of the biological relativity of mind. In other words, according to the
authors quoted in these passages, the human mind is dependent on man's
anatomical and physiological organization, that is to say dependent on
organic entities and is thus a product of evolution. The third postulate of

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

evolutionary epistemology - which is tacitly accepted, of course, by all


who have taken an evolutionary view in epistemology, can therefore be
formulated as follows:
All psychic phenomena in the subhuman world as well as mental abilities
proper to human systems (selfconsciousness) are based on biological structures and functions; biological evolution has been the precondition to psychological and spiritual evolution.
But there are some differences between the psychological and the spiritual
or mental: psychological phenomena are common to all organisms which
show a nervous system or similar structures performing a similar function
on a lower level; spiritual or mental phenomena, however, depend on a
specific arrangement of nerve cells (neurons) and are due to specific brain
activities appearing only in human systems. Neither psychological nor mental
states and processes are explicable without reference to the organic level,
i.e. the ensemble of nervous, sensory and brain elements. Thus, man's mental
life can only be understood by studying its neurobiological bases, as F.
Seitelberger contends in the present volume. These postulates do not amount,
as might be suspected, to ontological reductionism, for we do not state that
the human mind is 'nothing else but an arrangement of organic elements'.
We rather adopt an emergentist view: psychological and mental phenomena
were evolutionary novelties; patterns of interactions on the organic levelled
to the emergence of these phenomena. Lorenz, consequently, writes:
There is nothing supernatural about a linear causal chain joining up to form a cycle,
thus producing a system whose functional properties differ fundamentally from those of
all preceding systems. If an event of this kind is phylogenetically unique it may be
epoch-making in the literal sense of the word. 3o

Man's mental properties certainly differ fundamentally from the system


characteristics on the subhuman levels, but they are nevertheless products
of evolution - evolution is, so to speak, a 'red thread',a process which,
by increasing complexity, produces qualitatively new systems; this can be
illustrated by a simple diagram (Figure 1).
Since the human mind is a product of evolution - and any opposite view
such as that of classical dualism means a kind of 'obscurantism'31 - the
evolutionary approach can be extended to the products of mind, that is
to say to epistemic activities such as science. Perhaps the reader will now
suspect vague analogies or even a tautological structure 32 of evolutionary

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

EVOLUTION
mental
level

psychic
level

organic
level

Fig. 1.

epistemology. But is it not evident that science, scientific inquiry since its
inception three or four thousand years ago, has undergone many changes
and intricate developmental processes? It certainly is evident: history of
science means evolution of science. However, this proposition is not new;
since the term 'evolution' has been extended to phenomena beyond the
biological world, many philosophers of science have taken an evolutionary
view. I shall confine myself in this treatment to some historical notes, for a
model of the evolution of scientific method is discussed in more detail in
the present volume by E. Oeser. 33
One of the first to deal with this question was the English philosopher
and scientist William Whewell. In his On the Philosophy of Discovery (1860)
Whewell argued that "there are powers and faculties which do thus seem
fitted to endure and not fitted to terminate and be exstinguished";34 and
he also wrote:
The mind is capable of accepting and appropriating, through the action of its own
Ideas, every step in sciene which has ever been made - every step which shall hereafter
be made ... Can we suppose that the wonderful powers which carry man on, generation
by generation, from the contemplation of one great and striking truth to another, are
buried with each generation?35

It is remarkable moreover, that Whewell's Novum Organon Renovatum,


which transgresses Aristotle's Organon and Bacon's Novum Organon, contains
a historical relativism of the Kantian a priori and, regarding the construction
and improvement of hypotheses boils down to an explanation similar to that
of Popper, by fostering the idea of conjectures and refutations. 36 For this

10

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

reason Whewell, as Oeser has noticed,37 can be identified as a forerunner of


the 'logic of discovery' which essentially is influenced by Popper's thought.
What we find in Whewell, although it is not explicit, is the advocacy of
a 'trial-and-error model' of scientific research. Such a model, which we may
also call a 'selective elimination model', has been fully described by later
authors, some before Popper; some of the most recent representatives of this
model or of approximately equivalent conceptions are B. BlaZek, M. Eigen,
M. T. Ghiselin, N. R. Hanson, E. Jantsch, W. Leinfellner, N. Stemmer and
S. E. Toulmin. 38 The basic premise of these works is that scientific research,
in general, is functioning in some way analogous to and comparable with the
process of natural selection, although scientific progress takes place on a
higher level, that is the mental level or, to use Popper's concept, in the sphere
of 'World 3'.39 Science, as a product of man's mental life, like mind itself
relies upon the capacity of the human brain. The evolutionary perspective
in the study of the history of science, after all, amounts to the biological
relativity of scientific development.
Hence the evolutionary perspective of science gives rise to such statements
as the following:
Scientific thought will always be based on whatever information-processing modes have
been acquired during the early lifetime of the human brain and its early interaction with
the environment. Scientific thought will always be conditioned to the limitations of
current learning and teaching methods and associated intrahuman communication
systems. Scientific thought will always be limited by the natural boundaries of cerebral
information-processing per se. 40

In other words: scientific thought is not yet, and, presumably it will never
be, completely free from man's inborn teaching mechanisms; but this should
be obvious.
These statements are true of epistemic activities in toto: the message of
evolutionary epistemology, as revealed by our insights into innate mechanisms, is that evolution has set bounds to the realization of human power.
Consequently, the cognizance of man's own limitations, I am sure, will have
to be an element of a new image of man (see section 5).
3. PATTERNS OF NATURE AND THE NATURE OF COGNITION
OR, 'WHY THE EYE IS ATTUNED TO THE SUN'

The questions discussed in the foregoing section require some further explanations. We have just stated the biological relativity of mental capacities and

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

11

suggested the natural boundaries of these capacities. I now state the following
thesis: the analogy between highly sophisticated episternic systems, like
science and episternic activities on the 'sub rational' , i.e. ratiomorphic 41 level
is not a coincidence, but is based on isomorphic principles, that is to say
structural and functional principles and/or laws common to all levels of
organization. 42 This thesis is a fundamental assertion of the systems theoretic
view which replaces the ontological notions of the 'scale of nature'.
Classical ontology had, nevertheless, one advantage: the cognizance of
the hierarchical organization of reality. Nicolai Hartman, who was perhaps
the most eminent representative of the 'ontology of nature' in the twentieth
century,43 specified four levels of increasing complexity in the hierarchically
organized structure of the world:
(i)
(ii)
(iii)
(iv)

inorganic level
organic level
psychic level
mental level

Hartmann's view, however, like that of his precursors, was a rather static
one, whereas the modern systems theoretic approach to understanding the
texture of the world corresponds to the above-mentioned 'dynamization'
of our world picture. Furthermore, systems theory in the sense of von
Bertalanffy has contributed much to the improvement of our image of a
dynamically organized universe. Each of the levels of reality (see Table II)
describes a certain stage of complexity, arranged by interacting elements.

TABLE II

S'
8

00

.~
~

.5

elementary particles
atoms
molecules
organic molecules
cells
organs
multi-cellular living systems
psychological phenomena and mind
social systems
cultural systems

12

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

Dynamic interactions among hierarchically organized systems are the


driving forces of the emerging network of nature. These interactive relations
have manifested themselves in evolution. Evolution is the dynamic principle
underlying all levels of reality, and, as I have said before, the 'red thread'
of nature; and it is just this process which, by the emergence of qualitatively
new systems, has caused the different stages of complexity, which were
already apparent to Greek natural philosophy. For about ten years it has been
the notion of selforganization of matter 44 which has thrown new light on
the development of the universe.
For, the external world of any subject as well as the observing subject
itself are products of the very same process, that is evolution, and the conformity between patterns of the external world and patterns of subjective
thought can be explained intrinsically in terms of evolution and selection.
The evolution of the perceiving apparatus, i.e. the totality of information,
and cognition-processing mechanisms in a living system, has been an adaptation process, and this is true in the subhuman and human spheres of the
animated world. Through the process of adaptation living systems accumulate
more and more information about their environment and, thus, represent
the structure of the environment they live in; the better the representation
of the environment, the better the chance of survival. 45 (Remember the
'second postulate of evolutionary epistemology'.) The information gained
about the environment is stored in the genome; thus information-processing
mechanisms are analogous to learning by trial and error, whereas the storage
of information functionally is performed in the same way as memory.46 So
even the simplest ratiomorphic functions require rather complex 'calculating
machines'.
We can now substantiate the thesis that the impressive order in nature
is not, as it has been claimed by idealistic philosophy, a product of our thinking and imagination, but that, on the contrary human thought itself is a
product of the emerging order in nature. 47 If this thesis is not true, how
does it come about that man is capable of recognizing 'his' world? Let me
recall Plotin's metaphor in Goethe's words: "Were the eye not attuned to
the Sun, / The Sun could never be seen by it." The eye, indeed, is attuned
to the sun, because it has been developed and selected to recognize light.
Certainly, neither man nor any other organism is able to represent the world
exactly, but those parts of reality are represented, which are most important
to be perceived for the sake of survival. The representation of reality R,
therefore, is a partial one, R' (see Figure 2).

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

13

partial representation of reality


by the erceiving apparatus

R
A N ISM
perception

-------,

_-+_+-____~....... R1
informationprocessing

:
I

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ ..1I

Fig. 2.
What we experience is indeed a real image of reality - albeit an extremely simple one,
only just sufficing for our own practical purposes; we have developed 'organs' only
for those aspects of reality of which, in the interest of survival, it was imperative for
our species to take account, so that selection pressure produced this partial cognitive
apparatus. 48

But we must not forget that an organism itself is part of reality, and by
'reality' in this context we mean the external world of an organism.
When we consider the partial representation of reality by the perceiving
apparatus, we arrive at the following conclusions:
(i) The range of perception varies from one species to another, i.e. different species perceive different parts of reality, since they are adapted
to and live in changing environmental conditions. This is as clear, as that
the perceiving apparatus of lower animals, as opposed to that of higher
organized living systems, allows only the representation fo a small part of
reality. Of course, the perceiving apparatus of, for instance a unicellular
animal is much more primitive than that of a primate. Hence it follows that
the 'world picture' of unicellular animals is completely different from that of
mammals, and that, for example, the 'world picture' of fishes is different
from that of birds, and so on. Von Uexkiill anticipated these conclusions in
his Umweltlehre: 49 According to von Uexkiill any organism shows its own
specific 'ambient'. I think that this concept expresses a notion closely resembling what, in evolutionary epistemology, we call 'world picture'.
(ii) The most complex perceiving apparatus and thus the most sophisticated 'world picture' among all living systems is that of man. Man's
facuIties of cognition do not depend on the ratiomorphic apparatus only,
for this apparatus in human beings is 'built over' by a system which is

14

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

perhaps best characterized as the rational apparatus. The emergence of


the ratio has been the greatest event in the course of evolution, because it
has given rise to completely new patterns of complexity and order, like art,
language, science and ethical systems. However, as we have seen, man's
innate (ratiomorphic) teaching mechanisms up to now have set bounds to
recognizing the extensions of the world, simply because they have had to
succeed in a sphere which we can call the 'mesoscosmos'. 50 The cognizance
of structures and laws beyond the mesocosmos is the mission of scientific
endeavour - and that is the rational venture of modern man (see section 5).
(iii) The faculties of an organism to perceive certain parts of reality and to
gain a particular 'world picture' originate in a genetically stabilized program
containing 'how to behave in order to survive' imperatives. This is not a mere
anthropomorphism, for any organismic system is functioning by virtue of its
genetically directed peculiar behavioural programs, which may be slightly
modified during the individual span of life. For survival's sake any organism
is equipped with a 'system of hypotheses', i.e. inborn 'ideas' of certain parts
of reality.51 This 'system of hypotheses' is the initial equipment of living
systems for calculating their chances of survival. A 'realistic' calculation of
the structures of the external world is the precondition for coping with the
specificity of the environment. Hence organisms are 'hypothetical realists'.
This conclusion leads us to the intriguing epistemological question about
the naturalist's epistemological view underlying his investigations into the
realm of nature. By answering this question, we lay down the fourth postulate
of evolutionary epistemology:
The naturalist has to adopt the postualte of objectivity: nature is objective;
it has existed before and independently of an observing subject.

The postulate of the objectivity of nature, without ifs and buts, is the basic
precondition to scientific research. If nature were not real, it never could be
observed. Any naturalist has to take, therefore, a realistic view. The opposite
opinion could lead to a ridiculous solipsism. (But I do not believe that a
scientist or a philosopher nowadays might seriously advocate a solipsistic
position.) Certainly, to take the view of hypothetical realism does not mean
that man is capable of recognizing the 'world in itself. Here again we have to
realize. the natural boundaries to cognition and knowledge. In Popper's words
we can epitomize these assertions in the following way:
The thing in itself is unknowable: we can only know its appearances which are to be
understood (as pointed out by Kant) as resulting from the thing in itself and from our

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

15

own perceiving apparatus. Thus the appearances result from a kind of interaction between
the things in themselves and ourselves. This is why one thing may appear to us in
different forms, according to our different ways of perceiving it - of observing it, and of
interacting with it. We try to catch, as it were, the thing in itself, but we never succeed:
we can only find appearances in our traps. 52

All things considered, our attitude towards nature, as it is expressed in some


other parts of this book, is a realistic one. Of course, we do not adopt 'pure'
realism in its simplist form. Our kind of realism, I repeat is hypothetical
realism. What else should we propose in view of the premise that man's perceiving apparatus, like man himself, is attuned to nature?
Such an epistemological position as is presented here, is compatible with
the postulate of objectivity in science, not in the sense of the positivist's
credo, but in the sense of a critical approach beyond positivism. This would
be, then, a 'new criticism' transgressing the boundaries of Kantian philosophy.
As Hans Albert puts it, "the methodology of knowledge must have a basis
in reality: it must be appropriate to the relevant structural traits of reality." 53
And Albert continues: "This means that we must look for an appropriate
theoretical basis for it in an adequate theory of knowledge, an epistemology
which explains or accounts for knowledge, particularly the cognitive enterprise
of science, or explains how we can learn and solve problems." 54 All this
means an escape from metaphysical obscurantism.
4. THE INTERDISCIPLINARY FOUNDATION OF
EVOLUTIONARY EPISTEMOLOGY

So far we have primarily considered some biological aspects of evolutionary


epistemology. However, the references to psychological, anthropological and
linguistic approaches to the notion of the ideae innatae (in section 2) have
already shown the multidisciplinary plateau of an evolutionary theory of
knowledge. Indeed, evolutionary epistemology does not mean an epistemological system based on biological assertions only; rather it means the convergence of various results in different fields of scientific investigation.
Evolutionary epistemology is in fact a two-level approach to the phenomenon of knowledge:
(i) First there is the level of biological evolution. On this level the evolution
of cognitive mechanisms has become intelligible, i.e. the evolution of the
perceiving apparatus of animals, including man. This process has been studied
by means of evolutionary biology and with reference to physiology (especially
neurophysiology and sensory physiology), neuro-anatomy, ethology, and so

16

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

forth. The conclusion of these studies is that, as already seen in the course of
evolution living systems increasingly accumulated information about their
environment, so that evolution itself can also be described as informationprocessing, i.e. a universal process of learning and cognition.
(ii) The second level is the psychological one. Psychology of development
is concerned with the display of the inborn capacities and the modification
of these capacities by learning during man's individual life. In a way this
means that developmental psychology is the application of fundamental
evolutionary principles to the psychological and mental development (ontogenesis) of man. The evolutionary perspective, certainly, is required whether
psychology refers to innate capacities per se or to individual modifications
of the innate:

evolution

<
<

innate capacities

~
modifications by learning

Methodologically this leads us to the following relations between evolutionary


biology, genetic psychology and developmental psychology:

evolutionary biology

genetic psychology

developmental psychology

Note, in addition, a passage in Piaget's Main Trends in Psychology running


as follows:
"On the one hand, the organic and the mental give rise to differential specializations that
distinguish individuals from each other (according to tpe combinations of heredity,
aptitude and history), while, on the other hand individuals share certain common general
structures (mental operations, etc.), which are formed and developed in a fairly uniform
way."ss

I turn now to Piaget's conception of genetic epistemology, i.e. the ontogenetical approach to the development of psychic and mental abilities in human
systems.
Piaget was convinced that epistemology must be based on results from
scientific investigations into the nature of knowledge. This has proved to be

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

17

the right way, and such a conviction, of course, underlies the intentions of
evolutionary epistemology. A good deal of Piaget's studies is devoted to the
development of cognitive functions in children. Piaget suggested examining
this development like a mental 'embryogenesis' in order to fmd a fullyfledged biological theory of cognition. Between 1920 and 1970 he constantly
studied the development of the child's mental abilities, e.g. conceptual
thought, perception, representation of the external world, language, moral
judgments, and so on. This search to understand the child's 'mental world'
dynamically, was expressed in a psychogenetic or, more precisely, psychontogenetic conception. Piaget's genetical psychology and, in a wider sense, his
genetical epistemology 56 have been the theoretical connection between the
areas of psychological and biological research. That connection constitutes a
corner-stone in the scientific foundation of epistemology, and Piaget
endeavoured to establish epistemology as a scientific discipline. 57 Apart from
these methodological consequences Piaget's conception had a positive impact
on the notion of the innate, in the sense that inborn 'norms of reaction'
(mentioned above; see Table I) become visible. Such 'norms of reaction' are
natural, i.e. innate limitations to the development of organisms; according to
Piaget they are to be characterized as the totality of phenotypes, which
potentially are produced by one genotype.
What we fmd elaborated in Piaget's work is the importance of understanding biological and psychological preconditions to mental capabilities like
speech. (In what follows I use the terms 'speech' and 'language' in the same
sense.) During the last decades some authors, biologists as well as psychologists,
have, like Piaget, presented a conceptual scheme which amounts to biopsychological explanations and prompts us to a better understanding of this
fascinating phenomenon. It is common knowledge that the emergence of
mind and the origin of speech are inseparably related to each other. Human
language is the expression of human mind and vice versa. When we explain
mind as a systems property of sophisticated human brain functions - and I
do not see any justification for explaining mind via metaphysical notions the search for understanding man's language means the search for its biological
elements. 58 By making such assertions, however, we do not need to behave
like reductionists: Human language, undoubtedly, depends upon cultural and
social circumstances as well and can be fully understood only in regard to all
these components. However, the preconditions to the emergence of speech,
whether phylogenetically or ontogenetically, have been biological agencies set
up by brain mechanisms, vocal organs, etc. As to the evolutionary origin of
language, admittedly, there are still many queries. But it might stimulate

18

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

further discussions or even solutions of some embarrassing problems, to take


into consideration Ch. D. Hockett's observation that: "Man's own remote
ancestors ... must have come to live in circumstances where a slightly more
flexible system of communication, the incipient carrying and shaping of tools,
and a slight increase in the capacity for traditional transmission made just
the difference between surviving ... and dying out." 59 Hence the emergence
of such a communication system as is peculiar to modem man must have
been of certain biological value.
It is not possible to deal here with all the aspects of the origin and evolutionary development of speech, but I must mention one thesis which is of the
greatest importance to evolutionary epistemology: this is the thesis that
human language is programmed genetically, i.e. that "human genes carry the
capacity to acquire language, and probably also a strong drive toward such
acquisition", whereas "the detailed conventions of anyone language are
transmitted extragenetically by learning and teaching." 60 Speech, therefore,
depends on innate dispositions common to all human systems; the existence
of such innate 'language capacities' seems to be self-evident to us. Moreover,
this biologically founded thesis conforms to the linguistic approach to universal
patterns of grammar, which has been promoted by the studies ofChomsky.61
In short, Chomsky's view can be recapitualted as follows: man's capability of
language is based on innate structures, i.e. genetically established potentials of
speaking. Thus, a universal (generative) grammar underlies any special expression of speech; the different languages, like English, French, Russian, etc.,
are modifications of that elementary structure, and they are due to cultural
influences, social circumstances, and so on.
So we now come to the cultural relativity of categories. 62 Besides the
two-level approach to evolutionary epistemology, set up by biological and
psychological concepts and data, cultural anthropology has provided material
which at least may be interpreted in an evolutionary sense and fit in the
framework of evolutionary epistemology. As to the linguistic approach, let
me note en passant that this approach connects the bio-psychological and the
anthropological spheres, for language cannot be !lxplained without reference
to both the bio-psychological and the cultural anthropological view.
A reciprocal relationship between language and culture may be suggested:
on the one hand the structure of language depends on specific patterns of
culture, on the other hand culture, and even our whole world perspective,
depends on the potential of language. Remember in this context the 'Whorfian
Hypothesis', according to which the structure of language in a high degree
determines the 'world picture'.63 However, it is true that epistemic activities

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

19

in genere are 'preformed' by cultural evolution. 64 By stating this we attain to


cultural relativism, which was espoused by von Bertalanffy, M. J. Herskovits,
and others. Herskovits wrote: "Even the facts of the physical world are
discerned through the enculturative screen so that the perception of time,
distance, weight, size and other 'realities' is mediated by the conventions of
any given group."65 Whether you take such a view absolutely or not physical reality is real, despite its perception, as stated in the postulate of
objectivity, but it can be interpreted in various forms; and these forms of
interpretation (or explanation) ultimately depend upon cultural circumstances. 66 Thus, philosophical systems, for instance, differ from one 'cultural
circle' to another, which is obvious if you look at the differences between
Western and Oriental philosophy.67
But irrespective of the prima facie differences, e.g. in writing, art, codes
of morals, etc., Levi-Strauss 68 has pointed out that on the level of structures
there are elementary patterns of culture. (Structures, in this context, are
expressed in, for example, myths, symbols, types of marriage, and so on.)
Levi-Strauss believes that different ethnical systems might be reduced to some
common 'grounds' or even (cultural) 'universals'. Although this analogy is
rather daring, there are similarities between such universals and the Kantian
a priori, and one might say that cultural universals are something like cultural
a priori categories.
I hope that this brief sketch has made clear the interdisciplinary context
of evolutionary epistemology. There is still much work to do done to put
together the biological, the psychological, the linguistic and the anthropological/ethnological approach to a common methodological matrix (i.e.
evolutionary epistemology; see Table III) which could meet a philosophical
desideratum: namely that of a comprehensive, consistent epistemological
system transgressing the boundaries of 'classical' epistemological doctrines,
which have often been presented in a somewhat dogmatic fashion. I hope
that the present 'volume will contribute to the urgently needed new epistemology (see section 5).
Finally, we can stress the fifth postulate of evolutionary epistemology:
Evolutionary epistemology is an interdisciplinary approach to explaining
and understanding epistemic activities; it is based on biological and psychological research and corresponds with results in the fields of linguistics,
anthropology, ethnology and sociology.
In conclusion, we must take into account the mutual relation between

psychic level
{mental level)

innate cognitive
abilities

levels of living systerns: molecules, cells,


organs, organisms,
popUlations

genetic programs
stabilized in the
course of evolution
by natural selection

patterns of cultural
and social organization common to
different systems
('structures')

cultural and social


level

human world

EVOLUTIONARY EPISTEMOLOGY

human world

subhuman and
human world

genetic program
of grammar

mental level

human world

------------

-- - - ---

structure of language
in human systems

LINGUISTICS

patterns of organization in ethnical system

ANTHROPOLOGY

----------- - - - -

development of
behaviour of individual human
systems

evolution of living
systems

------------

DEVELOPMENTAL
PSYCHOLOGY

EVOLUTIONARY
BIOLOGY

(I)

....

'"
....,

[g

::>'0

"

e:

(I)

....

,,' 0

':' ....,

a-

g" ta ~
::s

....,
0

(I)

e:
goa

.... '"

(I)
'"
r6.s:.

i
I

>
I:C

....
........

tr1

t""'

>-l

tv

::J
CIl

tr1
>-l

l"':

:ec::

a:

>

'Il
:;tI

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

21

evolutionary epistemology and those branches of scientific investigation:


on the one hand, evolutionary epistemology depends on the results of several
scientific disciplines, on the other hand it incorporates initially isolated
results into a unified theory and thus feeds back into these discplines, and
in that sense, it helps us to understand their results. This relation may be
demonstrated by a simple diagram (Figure 3).
biology --:___

.~

.s '"

psychology

---.~ .....s. "~ I-:~=======:::;:


o t;
2
linguistics _ _ _ _ oS
<1)

....

evolutionary
epistemology

~
anthropology

Fig. 3.

I shall now set out some consequences which might be deduced from the
foregoing items and which might also point to fields open for both scientific
(empirical) research and philosophical contemplation.
5. THE CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

According to the foregoing statements, evolutionary epistemology means


new scientific and philosophical frontiers. So far, I have tried to outline the
guiding ideas and the primary goals of evolutionary epistemology and to
point out its basic postulates with reference to its history (sections 2-4). But,
in addition to this, it is essential to outline the position of an evolutionary
theory of knowledge in the system of science and philosophy and to point
the way to some innovations, which might arise as consequences of the
evolutionary outlook.
(a) Towards a New Image of Man
I shall start with a quotation from an essay by G. Radnitzky: "We need
a self-conception of man in which above all man's capacity of knowing
is realistically grasped: which admits that there is cognitive progress ... ,

22

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

that there are indicators of cognitive progress whose fallibility in principle


must not only be admitted but be emphasized, but whose objectivity is to be
insisted on." 69 That is correct - we need a new self-conception of man, a
new image of man going beyond misleading dogmas. Unfortunately, our
world view has often been governed by illusive styles of thinking, i.e. myths,
metaphysics, ideological claims,70 which have very often obscured man's
view of himself and, thus, have put obstacles in his search for enlightenment.
So what is to be done? We have to adopt a comprehensive system of thought
which conforms to the goals of objective knowledge; and we have to abandon
obscuratism and illusionism.
In order to adopt such a system of objective knowledge, we have to
fulfIl., above all, one demand: we have to learn from our own evolution.
As I pointed out above, man is not free from his innate teaching mechanisms.
The dilemma, which has arisen from these conditions is that man's innate
teaching mechanisms were selected in prehistoric times for survival's sake
in a world which differs greatly from our world of today; the ratiomorphic
apparatus succeeded under the circumstances of man's evolutionary past, the
ratiomorphic algorithms were sufficient for our ancestors, but they do not
fully cope with today's world and, consequently, man is often misdirected.71
This can be convincingly shown by the conception of causality. 72
The cognizance of causal relations, obviously, is based upon, and phylogenetically programmed as, the recognition of causal chains. However, if
we look at complex systems like organisms, cultures, social organizations, and
so on, and if we try to explain their complexity, we shall easily understand
that all these systems are built up by sophisticated patterns of interaction
among their elements. In order to explain such systems we have, then, to
consider another conception of causality, namely feedback causality. The
inborn expectation of linear causality, the inborn 'cause-effect notion', sufficed within a rather simple 'life-world', the 'life-world' of Australopithecines,
for instance; but it does not suffice to control man's present situation.
So what does a new image of man imply with respect to such insights
into man's ratiomorphic apparatus? We can answer as follows: a new image
of man implies man's view of his evolutionary past, which is still present and
not yet overcome. Our postulate is to take into account man's cognitive
structures, which were evolved (selected) in the past, but which have refused
to work reliably in the 'life-world' of modern man.
One might suspect that man is an evolutionary 'overshoot'; and one
might suspect that evolution, when coming to the emergence of our species
has come to a deadlock, a hopeless situation. "To be sure, mankind also

23

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

finds itself in greater danger than ever before", 73 writes Lorenz and he seems
to confirm this apprehension. But note his ensuing statement: " ... the
modes of thought that belong to the realm of natural science have, for the
first time in world history, given us the power to ward off the forces that
have destroyed all earlier civilizations." 74 In other words: we can still master
our situation, iff we make use of human reason, iffwe make use of objective
knowledge, which, in the last resort, we can obtain by the means of evolutionary epistemology. At any rate, a re-orientation is necessary.
(b) Towards Rationality and Objective Knowledge
In section 3 I mentioned that evolutionary epistemology is apt to meet the
standards of objectivity in scientific research. Campbell also came to the
conclusion that evolutionary epistemology and evolutionary perspective
in general "is fully compatible with an advocacy of the goals of realism
and objectivity in science" 75 . This recalls our attitude towards hypothetic
realism, I think that Popper has already proved this assertion in his works.76
Moreover, I should say that evolutionary epistemology does not only conform
to scientific objectivity, but that it has also provided the foundations of
objective knowledge, for within the framework of an evolutionary theory
of knowledge the phylogenetic preconditions of human reason 77 have been
made clear, so that the following relations are given:
human reason
(rationality)
ratiomorphic
mechanisms

evolutionary

- - - - - epistemology

objective
knowledge
Man's innate teaching mechanisms indeed have set bounds to his development as a biological species; but man as the animal rationale has transgressed
his status as mere animal and, as it were, has opened completely new dimensions. Thus it is true that we are not influenced by ratiomorphic structures
only - these structures yet continue man's status quo ante, but the animal
rationale by definition is endowed with reason, too. Therefore, we have

24

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

to use reason and to act rationally. When we do so, we have the adventure
of objective knowledge, we have scientific enterprise, and for the first time
a living being is able to investigate the sphere 'behind the scenes' of its own
existence. This has been the great evolutionary novelty.

(c) Towards a New Epistemology


The evolutionary theory of knowledge paves the way for are-orientation
in epistemology. Up to now epistemology has usually been said to be a
philosphical discipline and so the problem of knowledge has been considered
a philosophical one. This is not quite true as the problem of knowledge
belongs rather to the intersection of science and philosophy. Epistemology,
then, eo ipso is an 'inter discipline' or, as W. Leinfeilner and G. Vollmer,
for example, pointed out,78 a 'metadiscipline'.
Evolutionary epistemology offers convincing evidence of the urgently
needed interdisciplinary foundation of epistemology. Since the set of problems of knowledge has been discussed in terms of traditional philosophy by
the majority of epistemologists, it is no wonder that epistemology was not,
and is not, able to get rid of its intriguing questions. However, as I showed in
section 4, during the last decades biologists, psychologists, anthropologists
and linguists have been attracted by these questions and accumulated more
and more data about phenomena like perception, conceptual thought, learning and so on.
We assume that such phenomena are to be discussed in terms of the
empirical sciences, because the central question of epistemology is this:
'What is knowledge and how does it arise?' Thus we are justified in claiming
a new epistemological system going beyond the traditional boundaries of
scientific and philosophical thought. Such an epistemological system would
be a comprehensive, scientifically founded theory of knowledge without
metaphysical claims: it would be an elementary epistemology 79, dealing
explicitly with the above-mentioned question. Indeed, the task of any epistemology should be to investigate the preconditions of cognition and/or
knowledge, i.e. to investigate the ratiomorphic mechanisms and so, first of
all, to explain what we may call common-sense knowledge, for rationality,
scientific and philosophical thought start from common sense,so which,
we repeat, is itself a product of the evolution of life.
Hence it follows that evolutionary epistemology is an integral part of,
and the theoretical, as well as the empirical, prerequisite to an elementary
epistemology. By stating this, the position of evolutionary epistemology is

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

25

already indicated. Our assertion can be specified by a simple diagram showing


the relations between ratiomorphic mechanisms, common-sense knowledge
and epistemology:
ratiomorphic
common-sense
evolutionary
mechanisms ----~..~ knowl,d", ~ 'PMrOlOgy

~ elementary

epistemology

Thus, common-sense knowledge is subject to an elementary epistemology.


Scientific knowledge has grown from common-sense knowledge and has
outgrown it, as a generalized and objectified form of knowledge. S! Science
is man's most sophisticated epistemic activity, and, at least on our planet,
man is the only one living being which has created science. The system of
science is based on rationality,S2 and "knowledge for the sake of understanding, not merely to prevail, this is the essence of the scientific approach." S3
SO science is taking place on the highest level of man's mental states, but
it cannot be explained without reference to common-sense knowledge and
its evolutionary preconditions.
The relation of epistemology to philosophy of science follows:
ratiomorphic
mechanisms

-----~

common-sense
scientific
knowledge -----~ knowledge

elementary
epistemology

philosophy
.. of science

Finally, I express my hope that scientific knowledge will be applied to man's


highest aspirations and that it will not fall a victim to fateful ideologies.
6. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

The present essay is an outline of evolutionary epistemology. It is concerned


with

26

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

the notion of the innate and its phylogenetical interpretations (section


2),
the isomorphic relation of patterns of nature to patterns of cognition
(section 3),
the interdisciplinary matrix of evolutionary epistemology (section 4),
and
some of the consequences of the evolutionary view in epistemology
(section 5).
Implicitly I have given a brief historical sketch of evolutionary epistemology
and have pointed out five basic postulates of an evolutionary theory of
knowledge.
This essay, primarily, should attract the reader to the evolutionary perspective in epistemology, which is a rather new outlook, although its forerunners
go back to the nineteenth century (H. Spencer, C. Darwin, E. Haeckel, and
others). I have tried to outline the program of evolutionary epistemology;
the following chapters will show the many facets of this program.
Yet there is resistance to evolutionary epistemology,84 due to misunderstandings and to 'open problems'. I hope that the present volume, firstly,
will contribute to the elimination of misunderstandings and, secondly, will
be an encouragement to further studies, be it in science or in philosophy.
However, I am sure that evolutionary epistemology at least will prove to be
an 'eye opener' for many in the quest for understanding man.
NOTES
1 C. Darwin (1859), see 1958 edition of New American Library of World Literature,
p.449.
2 Ibid.
3 T. H. Huxley (1863), see 1960 edition of University of Michigan Press, p.144.
4 Cf. M. T. Ghiselin (1969).
5 M. Bunge (1979, p. 53); see also M. Bunge (1980). Cf. my remark on p. 8.
6 D. T. Campbell (1974, p. 413).
7 Cf. G. Vollmer (1975, p. 91) and F. M. Wuketits (1981, p. 114).
8 See K. Lorenz (1973) and R. Riedl (1980). Lorenz developed his evolutionary theory
of knowledge in the 1940s and anticipated his phylogenetic interpretation of Kant's
'apriorism' in a paper published 1941 (see Bibliography). For further details see Riedl
in the present volume, pp. 35-50.
9 Cf. R. Riedl (1975, 1976). Riedl'presented a summary of this theory and its consequences for epistemology in his article published in The Quarterly Review of Biology
1977 (see Bibliography).
10 K. Lorenz (1973), quoted from 1977 edition of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, p. 89.
For a review of "the evolution of life as a cognition process" see R. Kaspar (1980).

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

27

K. Lorenz,op. cit., p. 89.


R. Riedl (1977), p. 367.
13 Popper adopted an evolutionary view - independent of but, as it were, parallel to
Lorenz - in the 1930s and 1940s; see his Autobiography (1976). An exhaustive treatment of evolution and epistemology is Popper's Objective Knowledge (1972); see, in
addition, K. R. Popper (1959, 1969). On Popper's evolutionary epistemology see W.
W. Bartley (1976).
14 K. R. Popper (1972), p. 68.
15 Ibid., p. 26l.
16 D. T. Campbell, op. cit.
17 See e.g. F. M. Wuketits (1980).
18 K. Lorenz (1965), p. 23.
19 Cf. D. T. Campbell, op. cit.
20 See e.g. E. Haeckel's Weltriithsel (1899).
21 Cf. H. Bergson (1907) and J. von Uexkiill (1928).
22 D. T. Campbell, op. cit., p. 438. See also in Campbell's treatment, references to
William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, James Mark Baldwin, Jules Henri Poincare and
Ernst Mach, and on Mach see also E. Oeser's contribution in this volume, pp. 149-84.
23 Cf. P. Flaskiimper (1913).
24 L. von Bertalanffy (1968), p. 240 and p. 245.
25 Cf. J. Huxley (1957) and G. G. Simpson (1963).
26 See E. Jantsch (1975), H. Mohr (1967,1977, and in the present volume pp. 185208), J. Monod (1970), B. Rensch (e.g. 1968, 1977), C. H. Waddington (1954), J. Z.
Young (1971). Except for Monod and Waddington these authors are not mentioned in
Campbell's op. cit. ; some references see also in G. Vollmer, op. cit.
27 Cf. 1. Piaget (1970).
28 Cf. E. Lenneberg (1967).
29 Cf. N. Chomsky (1968).
30 K. Lorenz (1973), see 1977 edition of Harcourt Brace Jovanich, p. 30. See, furthermore, e.g. R. Riedl (1976,1980) and F. M. Wuketits (1978b, 1981).
31 It is noteworthy that dualism is represented even today by some neurobiologists
(fortunately not by many!); see e.g. 1. C. Eccles in K. R. Popper and J. C. Eccles (1977),
part II.
32 Gunter Wagner, in the present volume (pp. 283-305), tries to show from the logical
point of view that evolutionary epistemology is no tautological explanation of the
phenomena it is concerned with.
33 See pp. 149-84; see also E. Oeser (1976), vol. III.
34 W. Whewell (1860), see 1972 edition of Franklin, p. 395.
35 Ibid., p. 396.
36 Cf. K. R. Popper (1969).
37 Cf. E. Oeser, op. cit.
38 Cf. B. Blazek (1978), M. Eigen and R. Winkler (1975), M. T. Ghiselin, op. cit., N. R.
Hanson (1958), E. Jantsch, op. Cit., W. Leinfellner (in the present volume, pp. 233-76),
N. Stemmer (1978), S. E. Toulmin (1967). From another point of view W. F. Gutmann
and K. Bonik (1981, and in former writings), though criticizing evolutionary epistemology, have adopted a conception similar to that of the 'trial-and-error model'. For
references to authors between 1850 and 1970 (e.g. A. Bain, S. Jevons, P. Souriau, and
11

12

28

FRANZ M. WUKETITS

others) see again D. T. Campbell,op. cit. Furthermore, the reader will fmd some aspects
of the evolution of science in H. Mohr (1977), R. Riedl (1980), F. M. Wuketits (1978b)
and in the collection of papers edited by I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (1970); last, but
not least remember T. S. Kuhn (1962).
39 Cf. K. R. Popper (1972) and K. R. Popper and J. C. Eccles (1977).
40 1. G. Roederer (1979), p. 103.
41 The term 'ratiomorphic' was introduced by E. Brunswik (1955) to characterize
cognitive faculties similar to but not identical with rational structures and mechanisms.
Cf. K. Lorenz (1973), R. Riedl (1980).
42 I presented this thesis at the 'Fifth European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems
Research' 1980; cf. F. M. Wuketits (1982); see, furthermore, especially E. and W. LeinfelIner (1978).
43 Cf. N. Hartmann (e.g. 1964).
44 For details see M. Eigen and R. Winkler, op. cit.
45 See R. Kaspar (1980), K. Lorenz (1973), R. Riedl (1980), F. M. Wuketits (1978b,
1981).
46 cr. L. von Bertalanffy (1967) and K. Lorenz (1961, 1973, 1974).
47 Cf. e.g. B. Rensch, op. cit., R. Riedl (1975, 1976, 1980), W. Strombach (1968),
F. M. Wuketits (1978a, b; 1981), and others.
48 K. Lorenz (1973), cf. 1977 edition of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, p. 7.
49 Cf. J. von Uexkiill, op. cit.
50 See G. Vollmer, op. cit. and in this volume, pp. 69-121.
51 On this 'system of hypotheses' see R. Riedl (1980) and in the present volume,
pp.40-1.
52 K. R. Popper (1959), p. 453. On hypothetical realism see, furthermore, e.g. B.
Kanitscheider (1979), K. Lorenz, op. cit., R. Riedl,op. cit., and G. Vollmer, op. cit.
53 H. Albert (1978), p. 215.
54 Ibid.
55 J. Piaget (1973), p. 32. On the interdependence of general psychology and the
evolutionary perspective, see also e.g. M. H. Bickhard (1979).
56 See Piaget's book of the same title (1970) and e.g. his Biologie et connaissance
(1967).
57 A recent discussion of this problem is B. BlaZek (1979).
58 For a brilliant presentation of the biological aspects of language see E. Lenneberg,
op. cit.
59 C. D Hockett (1960), p. 96.
60 Ibid., p. 91 (italics not in the original text). For more details see especially E. Lenneberg, op. cit.
61 Cf. N. Chomsky, op. cit.
62 See e.g. L. von Bertalanffy's review in his General System Theory (1968).
63 See B. L. Whorf (1956).
64 When I use the term 'evolution' in a cultural context, this does not mean that I
reduce culture to biological entities. What should be expressed by the concept 'cultural
evolution' is the fact that cultures, like other systems, undergo changes.
6S M. 1. Herskovits, quoted after D. Bidney (1953), p. 423. (Note Bidney's critique of
this view.)
66 It is worthwhile to mention here Paul Watzlawick's distinction between 'flIst-order

A CHALLENGE TO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

29

reality' (= physical reality) and 'second-order reality' (= reality due to cultural and/or
social conventions); see P. Watzlawick (1977). On the social relativity of episternic
structures see especially P. 1. Berger and T. Luckmann (1966).
67 Cf. e.g. G. Radnitzky (1981).
68 In his Anthropologie structurale (1958) and in later works. However, Levi-Strauss
had already developed his structuralist view in the 1930s and 19405.
69 G. Radnitzky (1980), p. 315 (my italics).
70 See e.g. the interesting study by E. Topitsch (1979).
71 Cf. R. Riedl (1980).
72 cr. R. Riedl (1978/79) and F. M. Wuketits (1981).
73 K. Lorenz (1973), see 1977 edition of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, p. 245.
74 Ibid.
7S D. T. Campbell, op. cit., p. 451.
76 Particularly in his Objective Knowledge (1972).
77 cr. R. Kaspar (1981) and R. Riedl (1980).
78 Cf. W. Leinfellner (1980) and G. Vollmer, op. cit.
79 See E. Oeser (1976), particularly vol. II and in the present volume, pp. 154-7.
Oeser's information-theoretical approach corresponds to model-theoretical accounts for
epistemological problems; see e.g. H. Stachowiak (1980).
80 Cf. K. R. Popper (1972).
81 Cf. E. Oeser, op. cit.
82 It is not possible to discuss here the philosophical as well as psychological problem
'rationality vs. irrationality in the history of science' (cf. I Lakatos and A. Musgrave,
op. cit.). Scientific research (discovery), certainly, often has been based upon irrational
components and we must not neglect such factors as 'intuition'. But science would be
rather a chaos of theories, statements, predictions, and so forth, if it were not put into
a 'rational framework'. Therefore, on the whole, scientific research means (and it must
mean) always a decisive step towards rationality. How else should we master the objective world and our own situation?
83 H. Mohr (1977), p. 21.
84 I do not want to withhold the critique of evolutionary epistemology from the reader,
for this volume should stimulate further discussions of the problems in question. Therefore, when preparing the volume, I invited Reinhard Low to present his critical standpoint; see Low's essay, pp. 209-31.

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