Creation and Value from a Darwinian Perspective

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In his Life of Zeno, Diogenes Laertius records that the Stoics divided philosophy into three component parts: Logic, Ethics and Physics (DL 1925, Vol. II, sec. 40). At the same time, using the similes of an animal (composed of bones, flesh and soul), an egg (composed of shell, white and yoke) and a garden (composed of fence, crop and soil) they held that none of these parts could be separated out from one another, but were “mixed together”.

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Robin Attfield has both recognised and demonstrated this interconnectedness of philosophy—the fact that any position taken will have ramifications elsewhere. And nowhere more so than in his recent book Creation, Evolution and Meaning (hereafter Attfield 2006), in which these connections are teased out with great subtlety, particularly regarding the interplay between physical (including metaphysical) and ethical positions. The result is an imposing and ambitious structure—a fitting subject, therefore, to take as the focus of my “critical appreciation“.

Another feature of Attfield's philosophising is his willingness to engage with issues that matter fundamentally to how we live our lives, whether this be the formulation of a cosmological vision, or the question of how we find meaning in our working lives (e.g. Attfield 1984). One undertakes any critical appreciation of his work therefore with the genuine prospect of instruction and, it may be, of some vertiginous realisation that will require a shift in perspective, a prospect that marks one of the perennial enticements of philosophy. It is in this spirit that I offer the following remarks, which constitute an attempt to identify key points at which the argument of Creation, Evolution and Meaning fails to carry me along, and then to get to grips with, and understand, our points of disagreement.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Creation, Environment and Ethics
    Creation, Environment and Ethics aims to contribute to a critical understanding of ethics, evolution and creation, and to provide a pluralistic response to some of the most pressing issues facing the global environment today. Following the example of Professor Robin Attfield, this volume aims to reflect the diverse responses with which theological, ethical and evolutionary discourses have contributed to the broad scope of environmental philosophy and also to ongoing debates about creation and evolution. Critiques of the work of Attfield are provided by prominent philosophers, and Attfield provides a clear and thorough response to each of these critiques in turn. Some of the contributions also offer more pragmatic approaches to environmental issues such as climate change, development and sustainability.
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