Thomas Dixon

in The Invention of Altruism

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780197264263
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734816 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs


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This chapter surveys varieties of post-Victorian moral thought at the turn of the century, as exemplified in the individualistic, egoistic, and aesthetic philosophies of Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Nietzsche and his British followers, and G. E. Moore. All of these new philosophies involved radical redefinitions and revaluations of altruism and marked the beginnings of a post-Victorian ‘egomania’, which looked for ways to escape from the dull and cloying cult of sentimental selflessness that characterized high Victorian moralism. Wilde mocked the idea of living for others and instead celebrated Jesus Christ as the first and greatest of all individualists. Nietzsche and his British admirers waged war on Christian pity and Spencerian altruism as different varieties of a single decadent value-system. G. E. Moore used analytic philosophy to articulate and justify a neo-pagan ethics of art and emotion.

Keywords: individualism; Oscar Wilde; Friedrich Nietzsche; Moore; egomania; analytic philosophy; Spencerian altruism

Chapter.  17452 words.  Illustrated.

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