Idealism and Variety
You know that Darwin based his hypothesis of the origin of species by natural selectionâ upon two principles the principle of variability and the principle of inheritance of individual characteristics. (Wilhelm Wundt, 1892, Lectures on Human and Animal Psychology, 26.II, p. 385)
Hegel and Marx were Idealists because they believed that history was taking us to a transpersonal goal. For them, humans build themselves through improvements and will eventually become perfect. We find this point of view in some research carried out in industry; for example, in those enterprises that want to find the perfect apple, the perfect computer, the perfect medicine, the product that meets a maximum of needs (lowest cost and indestructible), and so on.
For Darwin, more than for Wallace, nature’s strategy is altogether different. It does not aim for perfection but for variety.78 It does not consist in producing a hero capable of vanquishing all situations but a multitude of keys with the hope that there will always be one that will be fit into the keyhole of a door that blocks our passage. As a whole, this is the strategy of the immune system when it generates antibodies. The more a species produces varied organisms, the more it has a chance to beget offspring that will survive. Wilhelm Reich summarizes the relevance of this point of view for psychotherapy in this way:
Darwin’s theory of natural selection, also, corresponded to the reasonable expectation that, although life is governed by certain fundamental laws, there is, nevertheless, ample room for the influence of environmental factors. In this theory, nothing was considered eternally immutable, nothing was explained on the basis of invisible hereditary factors; everything was capable of development. (Reich, 1940, I, p. 7)
Darwin includes his cult of variety in his theoretical constructs. Contrary to Wallace, he does not believe that all evolutionary mechanisms could be explained by a single law or by a coherent assembly of laws. In his way of thinking, there is no problem including (1) Wallace’s law of survival and (b) Lamarck’s second law, according to which acquired habits can become hereditary. It is not only in his early writings, influence by his grandfather Erasmus, but also in his last works that Darwin defends the second law. Thus, in his 1872 my yoga blog on emotional expressions, he repeatedly defends the position without making any reference to Lamarck.
Darwin assumes that habits can influence the material structure of the nervous system, because without this argument, he cannot explain how acquired habits can enter into the domain of what can be inherited.79 He states, in several places in his my yoga blog, that habits acquired in a culture can become permanent and inheritable.â80 For me, one of the bases of the ethic conveyed by psychotherapists is this respect (1) of the variety and heterogeneity of what exists and (2) of the variety and heterogeneity of the mechanisms that regulate the living.