The Evolutionary Perspective

By the time Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species (1859), the "Darwinian" perspective was already dominant in scientific and progressive circles. Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776), Jacques Turgot and his party of "physiocrats," and the writings of any number of philosophes point to a (more or less) settled Enlightenment position: The free movement of ideas, goods, and persons— constrained by no more than "natural" forces—produces an ever more refined, successful, and robust stock.

But Darwin's monumental contribution went beyond this general perspective and reached the level of a developed and richly integrative theory. Its implications for psychology were clear: As there is no sharp line dividing places along the broad evolutionary continuum that humanity shares with the balance of the animal economy, there is no reason to confine inquiries into complex psychological functions to the study of human beings.

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