Relativity and Authority

in Victorian Relativity

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780226327327
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226327365 | DOI:
Relativity and Authority

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This chapter explains the fact that Victorian expositions of relativity consistently adopt the languages of almost ostentatiously esoteric philosophical and scientific investigation. This method of discourse served as a strategic means of making arguments potentially chargeable with promoting “sedition and even anarchy” from the relative safety of innocuous-seeming intellectual locales. Spencer protested against the widening sovereignty of centralized government and its accompanying authoritarian ideological apparatuses, despite the fact that other Victorian sages pointed to the seeming spread of disorder in their society, indulged in reveries of therapeutic medievalism, or called for new institutions to monitor and regulate national standards of thought. According to Johann Bernhard Stallo, an autodidact in the field of physics, the simultaneous development in the late nineteenth century of relativity theory in physics and the critique of absolutist morality was merely a historical “coincidence.”

Keywords: Victorian expositions; Victorian sages; Johann Bernhard Stallo; coincidence; scientific investigation

Chapter.  15361 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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