Article ID: CBB297446928

The challenge of instinctive behaviour and Darwin's theory of evolution (2016)


In the Origin of Species (1859), Darwin argued that his revolutionary theory of evolution by natural selection represented a significant breakthrough in the understanding of instinctive behaviour. However, many aspects in the development of his thinking on behavioural phenomena indicate that the explanation of this particular organic feature was by no means an easy one, but that it posed an authentic challenge – something that Darwin himself always recognized. This paper explores Darwin's treatment of instincts within his theory of natural selection. Particular attention is given to elucidate how he tackled the difficulties of explaining instincts as evolving mental features. He had to explain and demonstrate its inheritance, variation, and gradual accumulation within populations. The historical and philosophical aspects of his theory are highlighted, as well as his study of the case in which the explanation of instincts represented a ‘special difficulty’; that is, the sterile castes of social insects.

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Authors & Contributors
Sloan, Phillip R.
Gildenhuys, Peter
Levine, George Lewis
Bowler, Peter J.
Greenwood, John D.
Burnett, D. Graham
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Victorian Studies
Journal of the History of Biology
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
History of the Human Sciences
Princeton University Press
University of Chicago Press
Drew University
Natural selection
Metaphors; analogies
Darwin, Charles Robert
Humboldt, Alexander von
Herschel, John Frederick William
Euler, Leonhard
Süssmilch, Johann Peter
Malthus, Thomas Robert
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
21st century
18th century
Great Britain

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