What is the meaning of this quote?

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Who or what is the most 'exalted object' we can ever conceive of? I take it from the quote that it's these so-called 'higher animals', but is it? I really don't what to make of it, but I would really like to hear your opinions.

  • For context, this is from Darwin's Origin of Species and is talking about what he sees as the results of natural selection.
    – katatahito
    Jun 19, 2019 at 4:49

1 Answer 1


My interpretation, in the context text that precedes this quote, "exalted object" is referring to the creation of nature / design of nature.

I believe object is being used to mean:

From Cambridge English Dictionary

the result that is wanted from an activity

In today's session, the object of the exercise is to improve your interpersonal skills.

In your sentence on part of the object = the production of the higher animals rather than the higher animals themselves.

Most of Western World, where Darwin was from, at the time believed that "higher animals" aka "humans" as well as nature and all the complex interactions that take place in nature were the result of an intelligent designer (as most would call it now) or a God.

He is stating that if he follows his theory of natural selection to its conclusion, the same result could occur in nature without a deity.

To sum up: the object = evolution by natural selection

  • Thanks, that makes so much sense.
    – Rooke RON
    Jun 19, 2019 at 5:27
  • In Darwin's day they didn't believe in an "intelligent designer." They believed in God. Intelligent designers weren't invented until 1989 or so. Jun 19, 2019 at 7:42
  • Bobbins. He tells you exactly what object he means by saying namely the production of the higher animals. Darwin was certainly one of the first to understand evolution by natural selection, but that's not a reason to rewrite his book for him.
    – user339660
    Jun 19, 2019 at 14:31

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