Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 20, Number 1, March 1998.
ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)
For quite some time I have been puzzled by the role of genetics in explaining both human characteristics and behavior. This curiosity led to several odd occupations for a philosopher/ editor. With a biochemist, I team-teach an honors course in genetics, and recently I became a faculty member and administrator in a college of medicine as well as a professor of pediatrics in a hospital-clinic research institution. These are not positions usually open to editors or philosophers, and one might wonder how they came about.
Intellectually, George Santayana's naturalism is the springboard for my interest. Although he maintains that all human behavior may be explained adequately through the sciences, Santayana is not a reductive naturalist. Aesthetic and imaginative qualities make life worthwhile, and these always will be missing from any consistent scientific account of our behavior. Our lives are determined by heritable traits, environment, and culture, but this is no reason for despair or drab resignation. Santayana's point is that knowledge of the determinant structures of human life should lead us to cherish the creative, artistic, and spiritual side of human life. His is a festive outlook that accepts the determinant status of all life.