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Letter 2150

Darwin, C. R. to Huxley, T. H.

3 Oct [1857?]

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    Thinks naturalists look for something further than Cuvier's view of classification. Poses a theoretical problem on the classification of the races of man to prove that a genealogical system is best.

Transcription

Down Bromley Kent

Oct. 3d

My dear Huxley.

I know you have no time for speculative correspondence; & I did not in the least expect an answer to my last. But I am very glad to have had it, for in my eclectic work, the opinions of the few good men are of great value to me.—

I knew, of course, of the Cuvierian view of Classification, but I think that most naturalists look for something further, & search for “the natural system”,—“for the plan on which the Creator has worked” &c &c.— It is this further element which I believe to be simply genealogical.

But I shd be very glad to have your answer (either when we meet or by note) to the following case, taken by itself & not allowing yourself to look any further than to the point in question.

Grant all races of man descended from one race; grant that all structure of each race of man were perfectly known—grant that a perfect table of descent of each race was perfectly known.— grant all this, & then do you not think that most would prefer as the best classification, a genealogical one, even if it did occasionally put one race not quite so near to another, as it would have stood, if allocated by structure alone. Generally, we may safely presume, that the resemblance of races & their pedigrees would go together.

I shd like to hear what you wd say on this purely theoretical case.

Ever your's very truly | C. Darwin

It might be asked why is development so all-potent in classification, as I fully admit it is: I believe it is, because it depends on, & best betrays, genealogical descent; but this is too large a point to enter on.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2150.f1
    Dated by the relationship to earlier correspondence with Huxley (see letters to T. H. Huxley, 15 September [1857] and 26 September [1857]).
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    f2 2150.f2
    See letter from T. H. Huxley, [before 3 October 1857], which was a reply to CD's letter to T. H. Huxley, 26 September [1857].
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    f3 2150.f3
    In Origin, CD included a long section on embryology, arguing that since ‘the embryo is the animal in its less modified state’, it therefore ‘reveals the structure of its progenitor … Thus, community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent.’ (Origin, p. 449).
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