Three Post-Darwinian Decennia (1870-1899)

After getting to know Le Bon, I realize that there are more who wrote epiphany pieces in the 19th century and which have now (2021 )retained their scientific significance for me. It concerns Nietzsche’s piece on truth and lies in a non-moral sense from 1873, the piece by Rée on the illusion of free will from 1885, Durkheim’s piece on the evolution of organized specializations (as in guilds) from 1893 and Le Bon’s 1895 piece on the psychology of mobs.

Those pieces all bear the stamp of the difficult idea that Darwin had sent out into the world in 1859 and that opened minds worldwide in anticipation of further scientific results brought forth by evolutionary reasoning. That has worked really well in the sciences that don’t focus on human behavior. In those that do it became successful mostly in the form of propaganda messages adopted by political movements on xenophobic bases. As a result, post-Darwinian sociological thinking of the 19th century has become tainted and out of academic fashion. And that in turn has resulted therein, I think, that there is hardly any new material in 2021, for someone like me who wants to build toy worlds that describe the behavior of institutions.

For such replication of social systems, I have to make decisions about how I can imitate the behavior of people who (think they) are autonomous with algorithms that only display predestined effects (pace Rée 1885).

I will also have to include the dynamics of relevant institutions as they evolve in cooperating networks (pace Durkheim 1893).

And the main differences between the psychologies of relevant institutions and those of the individuals who constitute them (pace LeBon 1895).

And perhaps the most important issue to be addressed and faced is that of how to find and preserve a serious substitute for the truth, also when we talk about things at a level that is similar to that of a pandemic in which contact investigation as a controlling instrument is no longer within reach in a practical sense (pace Nietzsche 1873).

In the decades that have produced these pieces, academia proceeded in a free spirit that had not yet been constrained by today’s vast amounts of scientific knowledge that Darwin and information technology have unleashed and which must be taken into account when proposing and testing theories.

For simulating complex social system behavior such vast amounts are not there. In that respect, building toy worlds that mimic complex social systems makes me feel as free in 2021 as the scientists quoted may well have felt themselves in the second half of the 19th century.