Chapter

The Modern Fear of Matter: Reflections on the Protestantism of Victorian Science

Peter Pels

in Things

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780823239450
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823239498 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823239450.003.0002

Series: Future of the Religious Past (FUP)

The Modern Fear of Matter: Reflections on the Protestantism of Victorian Science

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Addressing the problematic Protestant stance with regard to materiality, this chapter demonstrates the historical construction and situatedness of notions of “matter” and “materiality,” emphasizing their profoundly relational character: materiality may be understood as either “concrete” in opposition to “abstract,” “material” in opposition to “spiritual,” “objective” in opposition to “subjective,” or “natural” in opposition to “cultural.” Discussing the role of the Protestant “fear of matter” in nineteenth-century Victorian science, he traces shifts in all four oppositions, driven by a Calvinist combination of contempt for and fear of materiality and giving shape to a “dematerialization” of anthropology and the other social sciences that came to privilege the “immaterial” over the “material.”

Keywords: Protestantism; Victorian science; Materiality and immateriality; Spirit and matter; Anthropology

Chapter.  6390 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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