Book

The Invention of Altruism

Thomas Dixon

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780197264263
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734816 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197264263.001.0001

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

The Invention of Altruism

Show Summary Details

Preview

‘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’. This book traces this new language of ‘altruism’ as it spread through British culture between the 1850s and the 1900s, and in doing so provides a 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’. The book 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 relevant to contemporary debates about altruism, evolution, religion, and ethics.

Keywords: altruism; Auguste Comte; cerebral theory; Religion of Humanity; British culture; Victorian morality; Comtean positivism; Charles Darwin; Herbert Spencer

Book.  440 pages.  Illustrated.

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at British Academy »


Table of Contents

Egomania in The Invention of Altruism

Chapter

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.