Chapter 24: The Birth of Modern European Thought
The faith in science that dominated thought in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Conflict between church and state over education.
Islam and late nineteenth-century European thought.
The effect of modernism in literature and art, psychoanalysis, and the revolution of physics on intellectual life.
Racism and anti-Semitism
Feminism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century
Section One: The New Reading Public
Between 1850 and 1900, Europe emerged as a primarily literate society with a massive reading public.
Advances in Primary Education
Implementation of elementary schools by nation
By 1900, nearly 85% of the inhabitants of Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Germany were literate; Italy, Spain, Austria-Hungary, and the Balkans still had literacy rates between 30 and 60%.
Reading Material for the Mass Audience
Newspapers, books, magazines, mail-order catalogs, and libraries grew rapidly (1860-1900)
“Literacy was the intellectual parallel of the railroad and steamship. People could leave their original intellectual surroundings because literacy is not an end in itself, but leads to other skills and knowledge.”
Section Two: Science at Mid-Century
Newtonian view of science—that nature operates as a vast machine according to mechanical principles—still prevailed at mid-century.
Rational, mechanical, dependable
The term ‘scientist’ invented in the 1830s.
Comte, Positivism, and the Prestige of Science
A philosophy of human intellectual development that culminated in science which was describes by Auguste Comte in The Positive Philosophy (1830-1842).
Three stages of human intellectual development
Stage one: theological stage
Stage two: metaphysical stage
Stage three: positive stage (exact descriptions of observable phenomena)
Comte considered the father of sociology
He believed positive laws of social behavior could be formulated.
Link between science and technology now abundantly clear to people of Europe
Prior to nineteenth-century, natural philosophy was studied by an intellectual elite and technological innovation usually developed by workers.
Second Industrial Revolution marks the union of science and technology.
Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
On Origin of Species (1859)
Explained how species evolved over time through natural selection.
Influence by Thomas Malthus’ premise that more living organisms come into existence than can survive in their environment.
Natural selection is mechanistic; that is, it requires no guiding mind behind the development of organic nature.
‘Darwinism’ contradicted the biblical narrative of Creation and also undermined the argument for the existence of God and fixity in nature.
The Descent of Man (1871)
Application of the principle of evolution by natural selection to human beings.
Darwin contends that humankind’s moral nature and religious sentiments, as well as its physical frame, had developed naturalistically largely in response to the requirements of survival.
Science an Ethics
Philosophers applied the struggle for survival to human social relationships.
‘survival of the fittest’
Evolutionary Ethics and Social Darwinism
Herbert Spencer—British philosopher and supporter of evolutionary ethics
Human societies progress through competition; if the weak receive too much protection, the rest of human kind is the loser
Idea used to justify not aiding the poor and the working class, colonialism, and aggressive competition between nations.
Doctrine of ‘might makes right.’
Thomas Henry Huxley—chief opponent of evolutionary ethics
Section Three: Christianity and the Church Under Siege
Very difficult 19th century for Christian churches in Europe
many intellectuals left the faith
secular and liberal nation-states attacked the influence of the church
Intellectuals challenged the historical credibility, the scientific accuracy, and the morality of the Christian church.
David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874), The Life of Jesus
Questioned whether the Bible provides any genuine historical evidence about Jesus.
Contends that the story of Jesus is a myth.
Julius Wellhausen (Germany), Ernst Renan (France), and William Robert Smith (Great Britain) all explained that the Bible had been written by human beings, like the Homeric epics, and were not divinely inspired.
Charles Lyell (1797-1875)
Geology proves that the earth is much older than biblical records claim
By looking at natural causes for floods, mountains, and valleys, he removed the miraculous hand of God from the physical development of the earth.
Anthropologists, psychologist, and sociologists proposed that religious sentiments are just one more set of natural phenomena.
Old Testament God
Cruelty and unpredictability did not fit well with tolerant and rational liberal values.
New Testament God
Willing to sacrifice the only perfect being ever to walk the earth; seemed irrational.
Portrayed Christianity as a religion that glorified weakness rather than the strength life required.
“War and courage have accomplished more great things than love of neighbor”
Conflict Between Church and State
Education Act of 1870 provided for state-supported schools run by elected school boards, whereas previously the government had given grants to religious schools.
Anglican Church vs. state
Anglican Church vs. other Christian denominations
Education Act of 1902 provided funding for both religious and nonreligious schools and imposed the same standards on each.
Falloux Law of 1850
local priest provided religious education in the public schools
The Third Republic vs. the Catholic Church
Between 1878 and 1886, a series of educational laws sponsored by Jules Ferry (1832-1893) replaced religious instruction in the public schools with civic training.
Germany and the Kulturkampf
In 1870, Bismarck removed the clergy from overseeing local education in Prussia and set education under state direction.
“May Laws” of 1873 (applied to Prussia but not the entire German Empire)
required priests to be educated in German schools and universities and to pass state examinations.
state could veto the appointments of priests.
Many clergy refused to obey these laws and by 1876 Bismarck had either arrested or expelled all Catholic bishops from Prussia
Kulturkampffailed as many Germans remained loyal to the Catholic Church
Areas of Religious Revival
Despite state attempts to strip the Christian churches in Europe of privileges and power, new churches and religious schools expanded and devotion increased in some areas.
Many in France believed they lost the Franco-Prussian War due to sin and increased piety in France in the 1870s and 1880s is evident.
pitted the Catholic faith against science, philosophy, and politics.
First Vatican Council 1869
The pope was the ultimate source of truth when speaking on matters of faith and morals.
No earlier pope had asserted such centralized authority within the church.
Pope Pius IX and many other Roman Catholics believed the Church could only sustain itself in the modern world of nation-states with large electorates by centering the authority of the church in the papacy itself.
Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903)
RerumNovarum(1891), an alternative to socialism and capitalism
Defended private property, religious education, and religious control of marriage laws, and he condemned socialism and Marxism, but also declared that employers should treat employees justly.
Supported laws that protected workers and urged modern society to be organized in corporate groups that would include people from various classes who would cooperate according to Christian principles.
Democratic Catholic political parties were formed throughout Europe as a result of Leo’s pronouncement.
Pope Pius X (r. 1903-1914)
Required all priests to take an anti-Modernist oath,
Islam and Late-Nineteenth Century European Thought
The few European intellectuals who wrote about Islam subjected it to the same critical historical analysis that was being directed toward the Bible.
Islam, like other great world religions, was seen as a product of a particular culture.
Ernst Renan and Max Weber dismissed Islam as a religion and culture incapable of developing science and closed to new ideas.
Jamal al-din Al-Afghani
Egyptian intellectual who challenged Renan’s view.
claimed that over time Islam would eventually produce cultures as modern as those in Europe.
Christian missionaries had little success in the Islamic world as punishment for conversion was death
Missionaries did establish western schools and hospitals in the Islamic world
Ottoman government supported Western scientific education and technology.
Salafi, or the salafiyya movement
Believed in a reformed view of the Islamic faith which emphasized a rational reading of the Qur’an and saw Ottoman decline as the result of Muslim religious error.
This outlook, which had originally sought to reconcile Islam with the modern world, eventually led many Muslims in the twentieth century to oppose Western influence.
Mahdist movement in Sudan, the Sanussiya in Libya, and the Wahhabi movement in the Arabian peninsula simply rejected the West and modern thought.
Section Four: Toward A Twentieth-Century Frame of Mind
The last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century were the ‘crucible’ of modern Western thought.
Philosophers, scientist, psychologist, and artists began to portray physical reality, human nature, and society in ways different from the past and these new ideas challenged the mid-nineteenth century science, rationalism, liberalism, and bourgeois morality.
Argued that scientist consider their concepts descriptive not of the physical world, but of the sensations the scientific observer experiences.
Theories of scientists should be regarded as hypothetical constructs of the human mind rather than as true descriptions of nature.
By World War I, few scientists believed they could portray the ‘truth’ about physical reality, but rather saw themselves as recording the observations of instruments and as offering useful hypothetical or symbolic models of nature.
X Rays and Radiation
Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x rays (a form of energy that penetrated various opaque materials) in 1895.
Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium emitted a similar form of energy in 1896.
J.J. Thomson formulated the theory of the electron in 1897.
Ernst Rutherford explained the cause of radiation through the disintegration of the atoms of radioactive materials.
Theories of Quantum Energy, Relativity, and Uncertainty
Max Planck, 1900
Pioneered the explanation of the quantum theory of energy, according to which energy is a series of discrete quantities, or packets, rather than a continuous stream.
Albert Einstein, 1905
Published his first paper on relativity in which he contended that time and space exist not separately, but rather as a combined continuum.
The measurement of time and space, therefore, depends on the observer as well as on the entities being measured.
Werner Heisenberg, 1927
Uncertainty principle—the behavior of subatomic particles is a matter of statistical probability rather than exactly determinable cause and effect.
Applied science and technology in the areas of chemistry, physics, and medicine affected daily living more than ever before and scientists were able to find increased funding from governments.
Literature: Realism and Naturalism
Realist and naturalist movement in literature
portrayed the hypocrisy, brutality, and dullness that underlay bourgeois life.
infused scientific objectivity and observation in their works.
realism rejected the romantic idealization of nature, the poor, love, and polite society.
portrayed human beings as subject to passions, materialistic determinism, and the pressures of the environment like any other animal.
Charles Dickens and Honore de Balzac
Early realist writers who portrayed the cruelty of industrial life and of a society based on money.
Flaubert and Zola
Madame Bovary, GustaveFalubert
tells the story of the dullness of provincial life as a woman searches for love in and outside of marriage; the work portrayed life without heroism, purpose, or even civility,
considered the first realist novel
He wrote ‘experimental’ novels in which he would observe and report the characters and their actions as the scientist might relate laboratory experiments.
Between 1871 and 1893, he published twenty novels exploring subjects like alcoholism, prostitution, adultery, and labor strife.
He took a leading role in the defense of Dreyfus
Ibsen and Shaw
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
Norwegian playwright who carried realism into the dramatic presentation of domestic life.
In A Doll’s House the protagonist has a husband who refuses to tolerate independence of character or thought on her part; she finally leaves him.
In Ghosts, he writes of a respectable woman with a son suffering from syphilis inherited from her husband.
George Bernard Shaw
Irish writer who supported Ibsen and adopted many aspects of his style.
In Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1893), he tells the story of a prostitute.
In Man and Superman, he scorned the romantic ideals of love and war.
Modernism in Literature
New movement in late 19th century art and literature that was critical of middle-class society and morality
Not concerned with social issues, but instead focused on aesthetic and beauty.
Modernism in literature arose before World War I and flourished after the war, nourished by the turmoil and social dislocation it created.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
British modernist writer
Novels like Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927) portrayed individuals seeking to make their way in the world with most of the nineteenth century social and moral certainties removed.
Considered the single most important new departure from traditional art in early twentieth-century as they rejected the goal of art as to depict the world realistically.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1962)
Pioneered a new style of art in which they sought to rejected that painting constitutes a window unto the real world; instead, the saw painting as an autonomous realm of art itself with no purpose beyond itself.
The space in their paintings was literally space between two dimensions filled with geometric shapes and geometric voids; the shapes stand dismantled, set in new and unusally unepxected positions, communicating a sense of dislocation (ie. Braque’s Violin and Palette)
Friedrich Nietzsche and the Revolt Against Reason
Philosophy in the late nineteenth century
Philosophers began to question the adequacy of rational thinking to address the human situation.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
he challenged Christianity, democracy, nationalism, rationailty, science, and progess
he sought less to change values than to probe their sources in the human character
The Birth of Tragedy (1872)
Argued that nonrational aspects of human nature are as important and noble as rational characteristics.
To limit human activity to rational behavior is to impoverish human life.
Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883)
Criticized democracy and Christianity as both would lead to mediocrity of ‘sheepish’ masses
“The dream is the disguised fulfillment of a suppressed wish.”
The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)
Freud’s Later Thoughts
Internal struggle of the mind between the ‘id’ (amoral, irrational, driving instincts for sexual gratification, aggression, and general physical and sensual pleasure), the ‘superego’ (the external moral imperatives and expectations imposed on the personality by society and culture), and the ‘ego’ (which mediates between the impulses of the id and superego.
Freud’s ideas are a synthesis between Enlightenment rationalism and Romanticism.
Divisions in the Psychoanalytic Movement
Carl Jung (1875-1961)
A student of Freud who disagreed with his emphasis on the primacy of sexual drives in forming personality and in contributing to mental disorder.
Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933)
Jung tended toward mysticism and saw positive values in religion; Jung was more dependent on Romanticism.
Collective experiences make up the human soul.
Retreat from Rationalism in Politics
Nineteenth century liberals and conservatives agreed that rational analysis could discern the problems of society and prepare solutions.
Max Weber (1864-1920)
Regarded the emergence rationalism (scientific knowledge and bureaucratization) throughout society as the major development in human history.
Bureaucratization: the division of labor as each individual fit into a particular role in much larger organizations; people derive their own self-image and self-worth from their positions in these organizations.
Weber contended that noneconomic factors might account for major developments in human history.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905)
Traced much of the rational character of capitalist enterprise to the ascetic religious doctrine of Puritanism.
According to Weber, Puritans worked for worldly success less for its own sake than to assure themselves that they stood among the elect of God.
Theorist of Collective Behavior
In his emphasis on the individual and on the dominant role of rationality, Weber differed from many contemporary social scientists, such as Gustave LeBon (1841-1931), Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), and Georges Sorel (1847-1922) in France, Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) in Italy, and Graham Wallas (1858-1932) in England.
LeBon explored the mentality of the crowds and mobs.
Crowds behave irrationally, Reflections on Violence (1908)
Sorel argued that people do not pursue rationally perceived goals but are led to action by collectively shared ideals.
Durkheim and Wallas became deeply interested in the necessity of shared values and activities in a society.
Deep rooted history of racism in European history.
Renaissance explorers had displayed prejudice against nonwhite peoples.
Biologist and anthropologists had classified human beings according to the color of their skin.
Slavery in the Americas.
Biological sciences justified racial thinking starting in the late nineteenth century.
Hierarchy of superior races
French diplomat who wrote the first theory of race as the major determinant of human history in Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-1854).
Portrayed the troubles of Western civilization as the result of the long degeneration of the original white Aryan race.
He believed that the superior white race had been diluted by intermarrying with inferior yellow and black races.
An Englishman who settled in Germany wrote a theory of racial thought in his Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899).
Chamberlain was anti-Semitic and his book spread these sentiments throughout Europe.
Paul de Lagarde (1827-1891) and Julius Langbehn (1851-1907) emphasized the supposed racial and cultural dangers posed by the Jews to German national life.
In the early to mid-nineteenth century, nationalism had been a movements among liberals and a small group of nationalists; from 1870 onward, however, it became a movement with mass support, with well-financed organizations, and political parties.
New nationalism opposed internationalism of both liberalism and socialism.
The ideal of nationality was used to overcome the pluralism of class, religion, and geography.
The nation replaced religion for many secularized people; nationalism as a ‘secular religion’.
Anti-Semitism and the Birth of Zionism
Religious anti-Semitism existed in Europe since the Middle Ages, but after the French Revolution, western European Jews gradually gained entry into civil life; nonetheless, during the last third of the century, as finance capitalism changed the economic structure of Europe, many non-Jewish European threatened by changes became hostile toward the Jewish community.
Mayor Karl Lueger (1844-1910)
Mayor of Vienna who used anti-Semitism as a major attraction for his Christian socialist party.
Adolf Stoecker (1835-1909)
Famous ultra-conservative Lutheran chaplain in Germany.
Dreyfus Affair in France focused a new hatred toward Jews.
Amidst rapid anti-Semitism, the Austro-Hungarian Theodor Herzl started the Zionist movement with the goal to establish a separate Jewish state.
Herzl lost faith that liberal politics would guarantee the protection of Jews in Europe.
The Jewish State, 1896 called for a separate state in which all Jews might be assured of the rights and liberties that they should be enjoying in the liberal states of Europe.
Section Five: Women and Modern Thought
Anti-Feminism in Late-Century Thought
The emphasis on biology, evolution, and reproduction led intellectuals to concentrate on women’s mothering role and their interest in the non-rational led them to reassert the traditional view that feeling and nurturing instinct are basic to women’s nature.
Darwinism reinforced traditional stereotypes of women.
Late-nineteenth century writers of fiction also often displayed fear and hostility toward women, portraying women as creatures susceptible to overwhelming and often destructive feelings and instincts.
Evidence of late nineteenth century misogyny.
Ethnological Society of London excluded women from its discussion on the grounds that the subject matter of the customs of primitive peoples was unfit for women and that women were amateurs whose presence would lower the level of discussion.
T.H. Huxley excluded women from the Geological Society that he oversaw.
Late Victorian anthropologist tended likewise to assign women, as well as nonwhite races, an inferior place in the human family.
Women and the field of psychology
Leading psychologist of the period, like Freud, shared prevailing views of women; however, women psychoanalyst like Karen Horney and Melanie Klein would challenge Freud’s views on women.
Because psychology increasingly influenced child rearing and domestic relation law in the twentieth century, it, ironically gave men a large impact in the one area of social activity that women had dominated.
Women and the field of social science
Most major theorist believed that women’s role in reproduction and child rearing demanded a social position inferior to men.
Auguste Comte, a Rousseauean social scientist, portrayed women as biologically and intellectually inferior to men.
Emile Durkheim portrayed women as creatures of feeling and family rather than of intellect.
Max Weber favored improvements in the condition of women, but did not really support significant changes in their social roles or in their relationship to men.
New Directions in Feminism
Many women’s groups concentrated on achieving the vote for women, but feminist writers and activist attempted to redefine ways of thinking about women; in most cases their efforts were not successful.
Sexual Morality and the Family
In various nations, middle-class women began to challenge the double-standard of sexual morality and the traditional male-dominated family.
Contagious Diseases Act (1864-1886)
Any women in England, known or suspected of being a prostitute, could be required to undergo an immediate internal medical examination for venereal diseases.
Those found to have diseases could be confined for months to locked hospitals without legal recourse.
These laws angered middle-class women who believed harsh working conditions and the poverty imposed on so many working-class women were true causes of prostitution.
By 1869, the Ladies’ National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act, a middle-class organization led by Josephine Butler, began to actively oppose the laws and achieved its repeal by 1886.
General Austrian Women’s Association (1890s)
Led by Auguste Ficke, this organization combated the legal regulation of prostitution, which would have put women under the control of police authorities,
Women’s groups that demanded the abolition of laws that punished prostitutes without questioning the behavior of their customers were challenging the double-standard and the traditional relationship of men and women in marriage.
Feminist view of marriage
Mother’s Protection League in Germany contended that both married and unmarried mothers required the help of the state, including leaves for pregnancy and childcare.
In Sweden, Ellen Kay, in The Century of the Child and The Renaissance of Motherhood, maintained that motherhood is so crucial to society that government, rather than husbands, should support mothers and children.
Darwinism and contraception
Many early advocates of contraception argued that limiting the number of children would allow more healthy and intelligent children to survive.
Maria Stopes pioneered contraception clinics in the poor districts of London.
Josephine Butler and Auguste Ficke sought to achieve legal and social equality; this was the first step toward transforming Europe from a male-dominated society.
Freedom and development of women’s personalities through better education and government financial support for women engaged in traditional social roles, whether or not they had gained the right to vote.
Socialist parties attracted many women in the late nineteenth century as platforms called for improvements in the economic situation of women.
Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929)
Addressed the difficulties that women of both brilliance and social standing encountered in being taken serious as writers and intellectuals.
Encouraged female intellectuals to bring the separate intellectual and psychological qualities they possessed as women rather than mimic or imitate male style, function, and form of their male counterparts.
Encouraged writers of both genders to think as both men and women and share these sensibilities.
By World War I, feminism in Europe had become associated with challenges to traditional gender roles and sexual morality and with either socialism or political radicalism.