George Bernard Shaw’s Philosophy of Life: Creative Evolution and Life Force,


"Shaw's judgements are often scatterbrained, but at least he has brains to scatter."-                   Max Beerbohm 

Pre-eminently a first-rate dramatist whose work had a major influence on British drama, Shaw is a philosopher par excellence, with a definite philosophy of life. As a philosopher he is the chief exponent of the philosophic doctrine known as Creative Evolution. The earliest statement of his philosophic doctrine appears in his Man and Superman as the doctrine of Life Force. This doctrine runs through most of his later plays and takes final shape as the doctrine of Creative Evolution in his Back to Methuselah published in 1921. 

George Bernard Shaw
A. C. Ward has traced the growth and development of Shaw’s philosophic doctrine in the following wards: “This play was Bernard Shaw’s earliest full statement of his conception of the way of Salvation for the human race, through obedience to the Life Force, the term he uses to indicate a power continually working upon the hearts of men and endeavoring to impel them towards a better and fuller life. In later plays the Life Force seems to become more and more closely identified with what most people mean when they speak of the Will of god and the Holy Ghost ……………….The philosophy of the Life Force introduced in Man and Superman, ran through most of the later plays. 


Unlike Hardy’s Immanent Will, Shaw’s Life Force is represented as a power making consciously towards a state of existence far more abundantly vital than anything yet experienced by mankind. His  startling themes on slum landlordism and prostitution, the folly of punishment and revenge, religion, politics, the medical profession, marriage, parenthood, and phonetics—came into the stage.They came with the force of life. But the Life Force is not purposed to work unaided; men and women are required to act as willing and eager agents for the furtherance of its great work.


The existing rage of men, however, (so Shaw thought in 1903), was too mean-spirited and too self-centered to serve the Life Force, which would consequently be compelled to supersede man by a more effective instrument of its will – the Superman!’ In Back to Methuselah once again the purpose and claims of the Life Force were stressed; Once again, and in plainer terms than before, he spoke his warning that if man did not come up to the mark, Man would be replaced by a less tragically futile creature.” Shaw “pleads for the substitution of Creative Evolution – his ‘religion of the twentieth century – which teaches not only that man is the potential Superman, but also that man can himself hasten the evolutionary process by ‘willing’ his own upward development ………….. ” 


In fact Shaw's intellect or ideas is imbibed with bold, critical intelligence and his sharp pen, brought to bear on contemporary issues, helped mold the thought of his own and later generations. Moreover, his Life Force accomplished this through a brilliance of wit that remains unsurpassed. now coming to the point, the Life Force is not named so frequently in Back to Methuselah as in Man and Superman, but it remains as the power behind the idea of Creative Evolution. The ultimate desire of the Life Force is to establish the city of God on earth. The intention at the back of the idea of Creative Evolution is that man should work intentionally towards to evolution of a human type that will be strong enough to establish and worthy enough to maintain the earthly Jerusalem. Creative Evolution is the doctrine commended by Shaw as a means through which the desire of man and the purpose of the Life Force may be made identical.”  

Ardhendu De      


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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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