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Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1881–1955)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K098-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin taught that the evolutionary process is governed by a ‘law of complexification’ which dictates that inorganic matter will reach ever more complex forms, resulting in inorganic matter being followed by organic matter and organic matter being followed by conscious life forms. Viewed by observers, humans are material systems within a larger physical system. Viewed introspectively, a human being is a self-conscious creature possessed of freedom and rationality, with the capacity for action and inquiry. Each element in the world has some form of this dual ‘exterior’ aspect and ‘interior’ aspect, though consciousness arises only late in the evolutionary history. Teilhard de Chardin saw neither reason to doubt that matter can give rise to mind, nor any basis for reducing mind to matter. The prospects for humanity are gratifying, as evolution, following the law of complexification with the cooperation of human choice, moves to an Omega point at which Christ’s fullness will include as his ‘body’ a unified humanity that is at peace.

Scientific critics of Teilhard de Chardin’s theory have charged that his optimism involves extrapolation far beyond what the present evidence warrants. Theological critics have argued that he does not sufficiently consider the degree of evil in the world; optimism can only be justified if we assume that evil can be redeemed by transcendent divine action, because immanent evolutionary processes may not suffice.

Citing this article:
Yandell, Keith E.. Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (1881–1955), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K098-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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