I only discuss the third trend in the following sections because it allows for a synthesis of the themes that I initiated, while talking about Hume and Darwin, about a world and a mind that makes no sense, save for the meaning the human imagination attributes to it. Even the enlightened Darwinians have a difficult time integrating such a radical analysis. Australian philosopher Paul E. Griffiths83 mentions Darwin’s remarks on the uselessness of the emotional expressions, and he is ready to admit that they have lost the functions they had for other species. However, he assumes that if they are always present in the genetic repertoire, they have acquired new functions. Like most of the scientists and philosophers, he reluctantly accepts the notion that nature selects useless behaviors, even selfdestructive ones.
There is in this a difficulty given the tools that reason uses. Consciousness likes beautiful and grand edifices that architects refer to as classical.â Each element is in harmony with the others; their organization is coherent and their structure contains no useless elements. Spinoza’s theory is one of the most beautiful examples of a classical theory. Reason has difficulty appreciating more baroque and less functional architecture. The rococo style is an example of this kind of architecture. The facades follow the associations of the imagination. The walls change shape at every turn; they are decorated and then plain, all without any necessity for the solidity of the building. In the discussions at the end of the twentieth century, philosophers contrasted a classical or modern style to the rococo or postmodern style.84 In Darwin’s theory, the bricks are stacked on top of each other without any architect ensuring the coherence of the whole. The only criterion is that some constructions survive better than others, even when the makeshift arrangement that constitutes them contains weak and poorly constructed elements.
This discussion has a profound influence on the theories of today. To understand what is at stake, I begin by going back over the way this discussion was expressed, a short time after Lamarck’s death, in the debate that occurred between Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier.