Paradigms of Evolution and Material Force

The nature of self determines not only ones attitude toward the world, but how one constructs such a world that aligns with ones imperatives. With physical change through evolution, comes functional change in morphology, social relations and individuality, all of which drives history. With evolutionary fitness the species survives to pass on its genetic endowment. Modern science has found strong evidence for evolution. When evolution occurs, the species change due to environmental pressures. When individuals do not become adaptive, fail to reproduce, they are eliminated from the gene pool. Through changes in the species’ genus, future species bears little resemblance to the original form. Not only is the physical structure effected by material pressure, but also changes come about in the dynamic of life of an individual species, or the telos driven individual life.

The Varieties of Evolutionary Change

Evolution is not particular to the physical change in the species. Any change in physical structure has a corresponding change in function of the species, be its historical path, or its individual life. All mutations that result in the ability of the species to be adaptive, results from environmental pressure on the physical aspect of the species. Whether this change is genetic-morphological, quasi-historical or personal,  this continuum all depends on the material pressures on the physical structure of the species, but is manifested in different ways.

These three approaches, our biological history, our socio-cultural history and our personal life journey are not incompatible. One can see them all as ones being reaching out, in some sort of telos, toward a better more fulfilled existence. Can one only take the materialist scientific view of evolution? To reduce change to simply the physical structure of the species, ignores the contribution of these material forces to society and personality. When one ignores the contribution of material forces on society and personality, one must also ignore the result of primary material effect on physical structure. All three, the genetic-morphological, the quasi-historical and the telos driven life, each in turn, begin with the material forces.

As the changes in the body are driven by the material forces, so too does ones psyche find the way to transmute these changes in physical form and the implication for changes in function. The increase in the mass of the frontal cortex of the human brain has enabled it to survive, but also it has made itself acutely aware of others.

If a species is to survive, then a social structure must be developed that enhances evolutionary fitness, for example through availability of resources to the favored, including food, shelter, and the ability to procreate. To enable this complexity in society necessitates the differentiation of individuals in different skills and skill levels. The success of the social organ, is dependent on the health and adaptiveness, where it results in a sort of gestalt. These dynamics drive how the world is organized, and how the virtues of the individuals are driven by material forces.

Hegels Quasi-Historical Evolution

In the quasi-historical approach, Hegels book, The Phenomenology of Spirit addresses the problem of how spirit evolves as a result of changes in social structure. When the individual encounters another, only then can the individual become self-conscious. This interaction builds into a sort of social genealogy of history, which eventually leads to the highest achievements in human history, according to Hegel; religion, philosophy and art.

This unfolding of history relies on certain logic, where there is a stasis, conflict, and then through resolution another period of stasis. This logic of Hegels history, results in different successive social moments where one finds themselves, as well as providing a quasi-historical view of how change comes about socially.

It might be asked how logic can transmute history into progressive phases, resulting in newly unique positions in history. While Hegels in his logic may not address how logic formalizes history, the transitions that Hegel talks about, like his history as a whole, comes about through a harmonious state, followed by a creative tension, which result in a new harmonious state. Such is the nature of change where successive moments resolve into new ones. Historically, moments respond to change in the environment, whether it be the primary effect of the material forces on the genetic-morphology of the species, or the social groupings, which enable and disable genetic fitness of a people.

While Hegels phenomenology of spirit spans human history, the change in physical functioning is minimal over the course of human history, so in speciation the changes are minimal. But the social sphere where the spirit acts, function is defined in the unfolding of history, manifests itself nominally as the result of environmental pressure that are driven by material forces.

Freud and Functionalism

Freud writes about the Id, the Ego and the Superego (Internet, 2010). As the social inclination of a species can be driven by the superego, so can the function of the species, sometimes referred to as the spiritual aspect,  be driven by the material demands, where environmental pressures can change function. Freud talks about the id, which is the most primal impulse, which is moderated by the ego where the superego acts socially. The id drives or is driven by the impulses, including the sexual impulse, which results in procreation and the passing on of the genetic endowment. Also of primary importance is the death instinct or thanatos, which can prevent another from passing on their genetic endowment. These impulses are driven by material forces. The sex impulse is the most primal of the individual drives according to Freud. Without the drive to procreate, a species would cease to exist. The force of the instinct for procreation is the most fundamental of the genetic behaviors that drive fitness.

While often in the occidental tradition when one speaks of spirit, one thinks of a ghostly existence or an immaterial structure that drives behavior. But if the basis for spirit is the result of material forces where form drives function, then the way of behavior, personality and social structure can become that which is adaptive.

Aurobindos Gnosticism and Individual Telos

Similar to Hegel, but an evolution, which takes place in a lifetime, is Aurobindos Gnosticism (Sourcebook, 1957) . This telos driven life unlike Hegel, which is descriptive of the unfolding of human spirit, Aurobindos evolution results in a freeing of consciousness, which too has an impact on social relations, and social relations can help a species survive. While Hegel is descriptive, Aurobindo is proscriptive as the divine life, where a fully actualized existence is possible in ones lifetime. A gnostic life brings about personal accountability and benefits the species through altruism.

Aurobindo asserts that there is an evolution of spirit. In his work The Life Divine it is possible for one to become enlightened in ones lifetime. One does not need to wait to achieve the divine in another transcendental realm. As the individual changes so does the spiritual consciousness. When one is fully realized, then one becomes fully free to act, can therefore make positive adaptive change, which improves adaptive fitness. When action is based on altruism, this increases the fitness of the species as a whole and ensures the species survival.

Whether talking about the evolution of speciation and morphology in the science of evolution, the evolution where form determines function, or the social relations of the history is spirit, all depend on the environmental pressure brought to bear by the material forces. There is no need to exclude one from the other, but rather when evaluating them individually, realize that the span of time, which they act, vary.

The material forces drives history from the explosion of the stars to the birth of life and evolution of species. The existence of human history and individual development forms an ever spiraling up of the human potential in a sort of telos. All are driven by the material forces. All enhance the adaptation of the species to the environmental forces and therefore are part and parcel of adaptive change.

Weltanschauung and Social Darwinism

As scientism permeates Occidental societies, scientific explanation for social behavior have been reduced to Social Darwinism. Spencer took a different tack when describing evolution. Spencer asserted that not only was competition natural interspecies, but that evolution operated as well at the intraspecies level. Survival of the fittest was adapted to explain competition and fitness in Occidental culture (Internet, 2004).

Only when a species, or a segment of the species maintains fitness, can the species survive. There are different worldviews that serve to be adaptive, either cooperative or competitive. In order for a species to survive, it must be more adaptive than other species. While societies that are most cooperative are the most stable, the pressures of the aggressiveness of competitive societies most often result in the destruction of the cooperative cultures.

Sometimes fitness is defined by the power elite as survival of the fittest where the assertion is made that those who are most fit are the power elite. In bastardization of Darwins evolution, competitive attitudes between species are subverted to mean intraspecies competition for survival. This hoarding of the material wealth by the power elite results in greater fitness for the power elite and less so for those who lack adequate access to resources.

In order for the power elite to maintain its grasp on material wealth, the ideas of the ruling class are inculcated by all classes, and this adoption insures that the ruling class maintains its prerogatives. It may be maintained by the power elite that those that constitute this advantaged class, are somehow superior than the lower classes. Ostensibly this intraspecies evolution can weed out those members of society who lack fitness, thus strengthening the social organs as a whole. Unfortunately, such a society often ends up consuming itself, because of its own ideology.

The worldview in such a society adopts the prerogatives of the power elite as their own, and therefore the worldview that is adopted may serve it well in a developing industrial age; but when society shifts into a post-industrial stage, the asserted prerogatives of the power elite become little more than self-serving platitudes. The invisible hand of capitalism, which benefits all (Smith, 2008), becomes the closed fist.

The dynamic of history laid out by Hegel, illustrates the changes that come about in social relations, which determine the birth, growth and death of a moment of historical change, where a decaying society often finds itself either prone to collapse or in revolution as Marx asserts. The particular channeling of the material forces that drive the social relations, determine the Weltanschauung of its citizens and of a culture and the world. At the fall of an empire; through the leadership of the individual, as a savior or destroyer, depends on the culture that preceded it, and what ideology that was embraced. Only then, through transformation in the social relations, adapted in response to the demands of the material forces, can the species maintain fitness and avoid extinction.

Randomness in the Paradigms of Evolution

The question may come up when examining this formulation of change and adaptation, that is physical change, socio-historical change, and an individuals life legacy, one might ask if there can be free consciousness. While the universe seems to depend on constant physical laws, the unfolding of change seems to be of a potential of infinite variety. This becomes possible because of the random nature of change, which can manifest itself in a multivariate number of ways.

With the determinate nature of the laws that drive the universe, the randomness of the outcome of these material pressures result in every new and unique species with different functions, quasi-historical characteristics and distinctive individual functioning within the life community. Just as we cannot find a common thread in determining the coming physical change in the species, neither can one determine where the social construct of history or the individual consciousness and leadership will lead.

Works cited

A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (1957) Aurobindo. edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishan and Charles A. Moore Princeton University Press: Princeton.  Pages 599-609

 Darwin, Charles. (2002)  The Origin of the Species Retrieved on January 14, 2013 from

 Hegel, G.W.F. (1997) The Phenomenology of Spirit Translated by A. V. Miller, Oxford University Press

 Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2010) Sigmund Freud. Retrieved on January 14. 2013 from

 Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2008) Adam Smith. Retrieved on January 22, 2013 from

 Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2004) Herbert Spencer. Retrieved on January 22, 2013 from

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Doug Frame

I am a former professor who taught for almost 10 years. I have a BA and an MA in Philosophy. I enjoy writing about philosophy but ever more so I enjoy writing philosophy.

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