The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs)

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9780197264263: The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs)

"Altruism" was coined by the French sociologist Auguste Comte in the early 1850s as a theoretical term in his 'cerebral theory' and as the central ideal of his atheistic "Religion of Humanity." In The Invention of Altruism, Thomas Dixon traces this new language of 'altruism' as it spread through British culture between the 1850s and the 1900s, and in doing so provides a new portrait of Victorian moral thought.

Drawing attention to the importance of Comtean positivism in setting the agenda for debates about science and religion, this volume challenges received ideas about both Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer as moral philosophers. Darwin saw sympathy and love, not only selfishness and competition, throughout the natural world. Spencer was the instigator of an Anti-Aggression League and an advocate of greater altruism in Britain's dealings with the "lower races." It also sheds light on the rise of popular socialism in the 1880s, on the creation of the idealist 'altruist' in novels of the 1890s, and on the individualistic philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, and G. E. Moore--authors considered by some to be representative of fin de siècle "egomania."

This wide-ranging study in the history of ideas is highly relevant to contemporary debates about altruism, evolution, religion, and ethics.

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About the Author:

Thomas Dixon is a Lecturer in History at Queen Mary at the University of London.

Review:


"Dixon's comprehensive study is to be welcomed as a major contribution to our understanding of the subject....The structure of the book is elegantly simple, and makes what might have been an intricate work highly readable and surprisingly easily navigable."--Stuart Jones, Reviews in History


"Well-argued and compelling."--Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos, American Historical Review


"The Invention of Altruism is extremely useful, illuminating not just the spread of the terminology of altruism, its paradoxes and ambiguities and the several concepts understood by different groups to be contained within it, but also the broader intellectual contexts of the late-nineteenth century."--Mark Blacklock, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century


"[This] superb volume...constitutes a powerful re-reading of mid and late Victorian thought....Imaginatively researched, carefully argued and finely written, this is a volume which scholars from a variety of disciplines will be able to engage, contest and build upon."--British Journal for the History of Science


"The Invention of Altruism is ambitious in scope, and full of suggestive discussion of important themes."--Jose Harris, London Review of Books


"Dixon's comprehensive study is to be welcomed as a major contribution to our understanding of the subject....The structure of the book is elegantly simple, and makes what might have been an intricate work highly readable and surprisingly easily navigable."--Stuart Jones, Reviews in History


"Thomas Dixon has written a remarkable histor....His superb volume...is the single best study of the emergence of new moral and social terminology in the Victorian age....Imaginatively researched, carefully argued and finely written, this is a volume which scholars from a variety of disciplines will be able to engage, contest and build upon."--Frank M. Turner, British Journal for the History of Science


"Subtle, broad-ranging, and elegant...a compelling new interpretation of the intertwined histories of moral philosophy, natural science, and religious thought."--Victorian Studies


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Book Description Book Condition: New. Oxford University Press, 2008. 440p. Hardback. Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs. Thomas Dixon has written a remarkable history. His superb volume.is the single best study of the emergence of new moral and social terminology in the Victorian age. Imaginatively researched, carefully argued and finely written, this is a volume which scholars from a variety of disciplines will be able to engage, contest and build upon. Frank M. Turner, British Journal for the History of Science (Publisher's information). Condition: New Print on Demand. Printed on Demand. Bookseller Inventory # 40970

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Book Description Oxford Univ Pr, 2008. Hardcover. Book Condition: Brand New. 440 pages. 9.50x6.50x1.50 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk0197264263

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