Reconstructions of Romantic-era life science in general, and epigenesis in particular, frequently take the Kantian logic of autotelic “self-organization” as their primary reference point. I argue in this essay that the Kantian conceptual rubric hinders our historical and theoretical understanding of epigenesis, Romantic and otherwise. Neither a neutral gloss on epigenesis, nor separable from the epistemological deflation of biological knowledge that has received intensive scrutiny in the history and philosophy of science, Kant’s heuristics of autonomous “self-organization” in the third Critique amount to the strategic capture of epigenesis from nature, for thought, in thought’s critical transcendence of nature. This essay looks to Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and his English contemporary Erasmus Darwin to begin to reconstruct the rigorously materialist, naturalist, and empiricist theories of epigenesis marginalized by Kantian argumentation. As theorists of environmental and social collaboration in the ontogeny of viable forms, Lamarck and Darwin illuminate features of our own epigenetic turn obscured by the rhetoric of “self-organization,” allowing us to glimpse an alternative Romantic genealogy of the biological present.
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DOI 10.1007/s40656-017-0168-8
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References found in this work BETA

Critique of the Power of Judgment.Immanuel Kant - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Introduction: sketches of a conceptual history of epigenesis.Antonine Nicoglou & Charles T. Wolfe - 2018 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (4):64.
Hölderlin’s Higher Enlightenment.Camilla Flodin - 2020 - In Karl Axelsson, Camilla Flodin & Mattias Pirholt (eds.), Beyond Autonomy in Eighteenth-Century British and German Aesthetics. pp. 258-276.
Humboldt, Darwin, and Romantic Resonance in Science.Xuansong Liu - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 92:196-208.
Conceiving reproduction in German Naturphilosophie. Introduction.Susanne Lettow - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (2):1-15.

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