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Grown Wrong: Biophilosophy after Darwin

Lecturer: Ben Woodard

Originally Taught: Summer School 2021

This course examines the philosophical and scientific history of post-Darwinian biology paying particular attention to the rise of eugenics in the late 19th and early 20th century. By analyzing the various combinations of philosophical, political, and anthropological texts the aim of the course is to discern the unquestioned assumptions and persistent concepts that made, and unfortunately continue to make, eugenical thinking possible in the present. Specifically we will look at how the role of philosophical concepts often produced theoretical constructs such as ‘bloodline’, ‘mutation’, or ‘race’ all of which were used politically while being justified by pseudo-scientific claims.

Topics discussed will include: reactions to Darwin’s theory of evolution, the emergence of eugenics and sociobiology, blood line and heritage as biopolitical objects, mutations, statistical models, and the biopolitics and biophilosophy of racism.

1. In the Shadow of Darwin (1860-1880) 

  • “Towards the Sociogenic Principle”-Wynter

Optional: “Freudarwin” - Guenolli and Marcaggi

2. Models and Mutations (1880-1920)

  • Selection from Creative Evolution-Bergson, p 43-87

Optional: “William Bateson and the Science of Form”-Webster

3. Seed and Blood (1880-1920)

  • “The Black Stork”-Harriet Washington

Optional: “From Impressibility to Interactionism”-Schuller

4. Modern Eugenics (1920-1950)

  • “Was Hitler a Darwinian?” - Richards

Optional: “Us: On the Use and Abuse of Life for History”-Tarizzo

5. Contemporary Eugenics (1950-)

  • “Being Cellular” - Jayna Brown

Optional: “The Race Question”-UNESCO