Charles Darwin


Richard Dawkins reads from Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle

On this date in 1835 the HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin aboard, arrived at the Galapagos Islands.

Frye in “The Drunken Boat” cites Darwin among other 19th century thinkers to make sense of the revolutionary Romantic cosmos:

The major constructs which our own culture inherited from its Romantic ancestry are also of the “drunken boat” shape, but represent a later and a different conception of it from the “vehicular form” described above.  Here the boat is usually in the position of Noah’s ark, a fragile container of sensitive and imaginative values threatened by a chaotic and unconscious power below it.  In Schopenhauer, the world as idea rides precariously on top of the “world as will” which engulfs practically the whole of existence in its moral indifference.  In Darwin, who readily combines with Schopenhauer, as the later work of Hardy illustrates, consciousness and morality are accidental sports from a ruthlessly competitive evolutionary force.  In Freud, who has noted the resemblance of his mythical structure to Schopenhauer’s, the conscious ego struggles to keep afloat on a sea of libidinous impulse.  In Kierkegaard, all the “higher” impulses of fallen man pitch and roll on the surface of a huge and shapeless “dread.”  In some versions of this construct the antithesis of the symbol of consciousness and the destructive element in which it is immersed can be overcome or transcended: there is an Atlantis under the sea which becomes an Ararat for the beleaguered boat to rest on.  (CW 17, 89)

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