THE PHENOMENON OF MAN by Pierre de Teilhard Chardin

The-Phenomenon-of-Man-97800616326551  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest, and a philosopher and paleontologist.   He wrote this book in the 30’s, but it was considered heretical by the Church, and it was not until after his death in 1955 that the work was published.   It is considered his greatest achievement, although it has received much criticism for its philosophy and conclusions.

In it, he purports to show the convergence of the cosmos from simple elements to the complex nervous systems of human beings. Teilhard then argues that evolution has not stopped with the creation of human beings, but is now in the process of converging the human mass (like atoms and cells before them) into a higher complex arrangement, this time on a planetary scale. All along the way, this evolutionary process has revealed itself to be one that proceeds along an axis of complexity and consciousness.

He argues for a teleology of all creatures and even of the cosmos itself.   Thomas Nagel in his Mind and Cosmos   also argues for a teleology, although Nagel posits no Prime Mover, whereas de Chardin attributes this tendency to evolve to a purposeful end to God.

In many ways, it is profound, and at other times, stupifyingly naive, but at all times, truly interesting.

Everything does not happen continuously at any one moment in the universe. Neither does everything happen everywhere in it.

There are no summits without abysses.

When the end of the world is mentioned, the idea that leaps into our minds is always one of catastrophe.

Life is born and propagates itself on the earth as a solitary pulsation.

In the last analysis the best guarantee that a thing should happen is that it appears to us as vitally necessary.

What de Chardin is known for these days is his concept of the noosphere.   In Teilhard’s conception of the evolution of the species, a collective identity begins to develop as trade and the transmission of ideas increases.  Knowledge accumulates and is transmitted in increasing levels of depth and complexity. This leads to a further augmentation of consciousness and the emergence of a thinking layer that envelops the earth. Teilhard calls the new membrane the noosphere  (from the Greek  “nous,” meaning mind).  He envisions this as a kind of net or membrane, surrounding the planet.   People today see the internet as a realization of his vision.

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One comment on “THE PHENOMENON OF MAN by Pierre de Teilhard Chardin

  1. […] noosphere and the emergence of human cognition which fundamentally transforms the biosphere in his  The Phenomenon of Man.  Perhaps we might think of this as a […]

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