The logic of life in Maupertuis: from Newtonian attraction to psychobiological determinism
Keywords:Maupertuis, teleonomy, life sciences, history of biology, genetic information, panpsychism, Buffon
AbstractAfter successfully relaunching the epigenetic theory of generation, reinterpreted in the light of Newtonian attraction and chemical affinities ("Vénus physique", 1745), Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698-1759) deepened his theoretical investigations in the field of the genesis of organisms and species in the "Système de la Nature" (1754). In this work, in order to reconcile the scientific postulate of objectivity - which rejects the recourse to final causes - with the evident teleonomic properties of living beings, and at the same time recognizing inadequate for this purpose the mechanistic principles he advanced in the "Vénus physique", Maupertuis proposed a bold panpsychist theory of life, of Spinozian inspiration. Therefore, by postulating the matter alive, endowed with instinct and feeling, Maupertuis imagined that some form of intelligence or psychic memory, associated with matter, directed the development of living beings. In light of recent discoveries in biology, the original psychobiological determinism advanced by Maupertuis in the "Système de la Nature" appears to be a brilliant intuition of the logic of genetic and evolutionary processes.
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