PL EN


2008 | 53 | 3-4 | 227-257
Article title

THE BASIC THEORETICAL ASSUMPTIONS OF CHARLES LYELL'S 'PRINCIPLES OF GEOLOGY' (1830-1833).

Authors
Title variants
Languages of publication
PL
Abstracts
EN
The aim of the paper is a reconstruction of basic ontological assumptions revealed in Charles Lyell's 'Principles of Geology'. The most important of them was the principle of uniformitarianism. Unfortunately, Lyell never gave a precise and unambiguous formulation of the principle, and, as a consequence, opinions about its meaning are discrepant. Analysis of Lyell's reasoning revealed that he treated it as a principle of uniformity of geological laws, and of kind and degree of geological factors. On the other hand, he did not accept uniformity of geological results, and did not accentuate gradualism as strong as many commentators suppose. For Lyell the Earth was the place of incessant changes, but the changes did not have any determined direction - there were neither progressive nor regressive. The Earth was therefore in equilibrium, in the 'steady-state'. Another important feature of the geological changes in Lyell's theory was their limited predictability. This was the result of the complexity of the geological system, the nature of the main geological factor - earthquakes, and the methodological assumption of Lyell, who not only wanted to present general, theoretical model of changes, but also to take into consideration concrete, particular phenomena. Lyell distinguished two main classes of geological factors - igneous and aqueous ones. On the other hand, he diminished the meaning of organic factors in the transformation of the Earth crust. In his explanations Lyell appealed mainly to the naturalistic, secondary causes and to the internal Earth system's factors. One of the most important problems for Lyell was showing a place for the man in the geological system. He had to harmonise both the thesis of recent appearance of human beings on Earth with the evidence of their influence on the Earth surface, and the conviction of special place of the man with naturalism of geological method. As a result, he constructed unique form of dualism. As the physical side of the man he classified all these human qualities having an influence on the nature as, for instance, morality etc. A crucial element of Lyell's theory was his notion of geological time. In the concept one can tell the difference between attitude distinctive for physicians and for historians. Geological time was for Lyell not only extremely long, but also 'extensible'. Lyell's idea of time is located between the notion of 'time's cycle' and 'time's arrow'. There was the sequence both of non-cyclic and non-directional changes. All ontological ideas played an important role in Lyell's theory. He put forward only these explanations that were compatible with them.
Year
Volume
53
Issue
3-4
Pages
227-257
Physical description
Document type
ARTICLE
Contributors
author
  • J. Gegotek, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Instytut Filozofii, ul. Krakowskie Przedmiescie 3, 00-047 Warszawa, Poland
References
Document Type
Publication order reference
Identifiers
CEJSH db identifier
09PLAAAA060722
YADDA identifier
bwmeta1.element.e89a96ab-56d3-3beb-8238-0ff72aed947e
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