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We all know that little more than half a century ago the researches of Charles Darwin and his collaborators and forerunners put an end to this presumption on the part of man. 20 Freud’s formulation of man’s dilemma is itself mythopoeic. ) He reserves to himself the position of youngest brother in this trio of giants (Copernicus, Darwin, Freud), inflicting a double blow: ‘The third blow, which is psychological in nature, is probably the most wounding’: these two discoveries – that the life of our sexual instincts cannot be wholly tamed, and that mental processes are in themselves unconscious and only reach the ego and come under its control through incomplete and untrustworthy perceptions – these two discoveries amount to a statement that the ego is not master in its own house.
We unselfconsciously use the term ‘layman’ to describe the relationship of a non-scientist to the body of scientific knowledge. The Introduction 5 suggestion of a priestly class and of reserved, hermetic knowledge goes mostly unremarked. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, it was possible for a reader to turn to the primary works of scientists as they appeared, and to respond directly to the arguments advanced. Moreover, scientists themselves in their texts drew openly upon literary, historical and philosophical material as part of their arguments: Lyell, for example, uses extensively the fifteenth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in his account of proto-geology, Bernard cites Goethe repeatedly, and – as has often been remarked – Darwin’s crucial insight into the mechanism of evolutionary change derived directly from his reading of Malthus’s essay On Population.
O. , 1978). , 1992). Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge (London, 1998). xxxii Preface to the second edition Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (London, 1989). Gut Symmetries (London, 1997). David Worster, Nature’s Economy: a History of Western Ecological Ideas (Cambridge, 1985). Preface to the Third Edition 2009 marks a double celebration for Darwin: the bi-centenary of his birth in 1809 and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin in 1859. This third edition of Darwin’s Plots is a contribution to that celebration.