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Ideas Systems and Academic Theories

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

William Allen

Louis Althusser

Jane Adams

Thomas Aquinas

Hannah Arendt

Aristotle

Anthony Ashley Cooper

Francis Bacon

Roland Barthes

Janina Bauman

Zygmunt Bauman

Mary Beard

Cesare Beccaria

Howard Becker

Daniel Bell

Jeremy Bentham

Francis Bisset Hawkins

William Blake

Henry Brougham

Peter Berger

William Blackstone

Jean Bodin

Charles Booth

William Booth

Pierre Bourdieu

Ernest Burgess

Edmund Burke

Georg Cantor

Thomas Carlyle

Edwin Chadwick

Geoffrey Chaucer

Harriette Chick

Frederic Clements

James Clitherow

George Combe

Auguste Comte

John Conolly

Diana Coole

Charles Horton Cooley

Copernicus

Henry Cowles

Robert Dahl

John Dalton

Charles Darwin

Humphrey Davey

Simone De Beauvoir

Geoff Dench

Rene Descartes

John Dewey

Charles Dickens

Mary Douglas

Emile Durkheim

Albert Einstein

Friedrich Engels

Norbert Elias

Mildred Ellis

William Charles Ellis

Esquirol

Euclid

Family

William Farr

Enrico Ferri

Robert Filmer

Shulamith Firestone

Ronald Fletcher

Julienne Ford

Michel Foucault

James Frazer

Sigmund Freud

Erich Fromm

Galileo

Francis Galton

Harold Garfinkel

Anthony Giddens

William Godwin

Erving Goffman

Benjamin Gompertz

Olympe de Gouges

Antonio Gramsci

John Graunt

Wilhelm Griesinger

Friedrich Hayek

Jürgen Habermas

David Hartley

David Harvey

Friedrich Hayek

Georg Friedrich Hegel

Adolf Hitler

Martin Heidegger

Richard Hooker

Thomas Hobbes

Leonard T. Hobhouse

Richard Hooker

Luke Howard

David Hume

Immanuel Kant

James Philips Kay

Imam Khomeini

Julia Kristeva

Ronald Laing

John Locke

Martin Luther

Jean-François Lyotard

Thomas B. Macaulay

Thomas Malthus

Karl Marx

Roderick McKenzie

Marshal McLuhan

George Herbert Mead

Juliet Mitchell

Robert Merton

James Mill

John Stuart Mill

Juliet Mitchell

Charles Montesquieu

Benedict Augustin Morel

Elaine Morgan

Lewis Morgan

William Morris

Frederick Mott

Franz Neumann

Isaac Newton

Maureen Orth

George Orwell

Robert Owen

Paracelsus

Robert Park

Talcott Parsons

Ivan Pavlov

Louis Pasteur

Frank Pearce

Jean Piaget

Plato

Karl Popper

Richard Price

James Cowles Prichard

Joseph Priestley

Ptolemy

Pythagoras

Adolphe Quetelet


Rosalie Rayner

Wilhelm Reich

David Ricardo

Robot

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Sheila Rowbotham

Bertrand Russell

Jean Paul Sartre

Saint Simon

Roger Scruton

William Shakespeare

Mary Shelley

Percy Shelley

Georg Simmel

Slavery

Adam Smith

Thomas Southwood Smith

William Robertson Smith

Socrates

Pitirim Sorokin

Herbert Spencer

Benjamin Spock

Ed Stephan

William Sumner

Arthur and Edith Tansley

Harriet Taylor

Alfred Tennyson

William Thompson

Alexis de Tocqueville

Thomas Tooke

Peter Townsend

Samuel Tuke

William Tuke

Alan Turing

Edward Burnett Tylor

Utilitarianism

Lev Semenovich Vygotsky

John Watson

Max Weber

Alfred Wegener

Anna Wheeler

Alfred North Whitehead

Peter Willmott

Mary Wollstonecraft

William Wordsworth

C. Wright Mills

Wilhelm Wundt

Michael Young

Jock Young


People and ideas systems

Introductory sketches of the ideas of theorists, linked to Andrew Roberts' book Social Science History and the Society and Science History TimeLine

Clicking on a theorist's date of birth will take you to that date on timeline. If the timeline has one of the theorist's works highlighted in colour, clicking on that will take you to web resources by and about the theorist. Not all these links are in place yet.

Ideas Systems and Academic Theories

From our culture we inherit systems of ideas that help us (speculatively) to interpret the world. One of the purposes of Universities is to be academic communities where people develop and test these idea systems.

We are often unable to explain the basis of the common sense theories we use, but the
academic community seeks to reveal the axioms or first principles on which systems of ideas are built.

Theory Constrains Us

One of the features of any theory is that it constrains one. If you adopt a theory because it explains a certain part of reality, you have to accept its consequences for other parts.

A state of nature theorist might create a theory to explain politics. As the theory is based on a description of basic human nature, it will have consequences for other parts of the human reality. For example, it will have consequences for our theories to explain gender differences, and for our theories to explain family relations.

Studying state of nature theorists gives you an opportunity to develop your skills in handling and developing theories that apply to many different areas of human reality. In reading about Hobbes and Locke, for example, imagine how what they say about politics would apply to the relations within a family.

 

Aristotle
born about 384BC, died 322BC

Greek philosopher.

Aristotle argued that men and women have different kinds of reason. A man's reason fits him for government, a women's reason fits her for domestic life. Compare with his tutor, Plato

See the timeline for a brief summary of Aristotle's ideas and links to fuller explanations and to texts, or click on his picture to go directly to some of his ideas.

External link to Wikipedia   other weblinks   books

extracts from
Aristotle
 
Ashley Cooper was the aristocrat representative of the
working class. Click to read what he wrote
Anthony Ashley Cooper
Lord Ashley until 1851
7th Earl of Shaftesbury from 1851
Born 1801, died 1885


Conservative theorist and politician who worked with the working class movement in the
1830s and 1840s as a factory reformer. In 1832 he agreed to be the representative in parliament of the campaign to limit the work children could do in factories to 10 a day. The 1842, Coal Mines Act, which he piloted through the House of Commons, stopped women, and children under thirteen, from working underground.

Ashley's policies are an example of the paternalism (theory of dependence and protection) that Mill and Taylor criticised, and of the feudal socialism that Marx and Engels criticised.

 

Cesare Beccaria
Born
15.3.1738, died 1794

See outline of Classical Criminology and Beccaria on the Crime Timeline

On Classicm and Positivism

Beccaria reasoned that modern man
Will commit a crime if sure he can
Escape conviction and get richer
(A little crude but you get the picture)

Lombroso took a different view
Believing that most crime was due
Not to individuals making rational choices
But rather responding to biological forces.

David Porteous BA, MA
Programme Leader MA Criminology
Middlesex University

timeline   External links to Wikipedia article on:
Beccaria   other weblinks

 
Jeremy
Bentham's writings Jeremy Bentham
Born 1748, died 1832

An attorney's son, born in London. From 1763 Bentham studied law at Lincoln's Inn, but never practised. He was interested in the theory of law.
crime and
deviancy
timeline crime
In 1776 Bentham published A Fragment on Government. This criticised a passage in Blackstone's Commentaries. William Blackstone (1723- 1780) saw the English law embodying the collective wisdom of the society. Bentham descibed this a "fiction" - a set of ideas hiding the true motives of those who proclaimed them. The scientific study of law should be based on the understanding that humans pursue happiness and aviod pain. William
Blackstone
From 1785 to 1788, Bentham travelled on the Continent, including Russia. He formed the idea that he could become the Newton of morals and legislation. From 1787 to 1811 he was engaged in promoting the construction of an institution for remodelling human behaviour: The Panopticon Mental Health
History
1791
In
1789 Bentham published An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.

Bentham held that:

  • laws should be socially useful and not merely reflect the status quo;
  • that human beings pursue pleasure and avoid pain;
  • that desires may be broadly classified into self- and other- regarding
  • that the function of law is to award punishment and rewards to maintain a just balance between them.
    (Chambers Biography)

 

Henry Peter Brougham
Born
1778, died 1868

Founder of the Social Science Association in 1857. Brougham was one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review in 1802. He moved to London in 1805 and became a barrister in 1808. He became a member of Parliament in 1810 and carried an Act that made it illegal to participate in the slave trade. He was the defence counsel for the Hunts when they were tried (in December 1812) for libelling George, the Prince Regent. In 1820 he defended Queen Caroline when George (now King) tried to divorce her. In 1822 he supported an unsuccessful scheme for national education. He was a major influence on founding the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in 1826, and was a member of its General Committee. He was one of the founders of London University. In 1828, Brougham made a six hour speech, on which he consulted Jeremy Bentham, summarising the faults with the legal system. From November 1830 to December 1835, Brougham was Lord Chancellor. A commission intended to codify the criminal law, was appointed in 1833. Brougham was not an uncritical follower of Bentham, but he says that "the age of law reform and the age of Jeremy Bentham" were the same thing, and that Bentham was the "first legal philosopher" who had appeared in the world. (Leslie Stephens 1900 - external link)

External links:
Spartacus school-net

 

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), the author of Reflections on the French Revolution, published in November 1790 criticised the French because

"you chose to act as if you had never been moulded into civil society and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you... Respecting your forefathers, you would have been taught to respect yourselves. You would not have chosen to consider the French as a people of yesterday, as a nation of lowborn servile wretches until the emancipating year of 1789... in your most devoted submission you were actuated by a principle of public spirit ... it was your country you worshipped in the person of your king" (Burke. E. 1790, par.61

See Conservative theory - Social Science History Chapters three - four - six - Conservatism versus progress - Autumn 1793 -

 

Charles Darwin
Born 1809, died 1882
timeline - weblinks
and
Thomas Henry Huxley
Born 1825 - Died 1895
timeline - weblinks

Charles Darwin did not invent the theory of evolution - that had existed for a long time. He did make a credible case that evolution operated by a process of natural selection. This helped to convince scientists that evolution could be believed in as the way the different forms of life came into being. Within science, this was very contentious for many years. In the 1890s, for example, the Linnaean Society carefully awarded its gold medal equally to scientists who supported Darwin and scientists who opposed him.

Some people argue that Darwin developed his theory of natural selection as a result of careful observation. They point to the voyages from 1831 to 1836 on which he carefully noted the way birds varied from island to island. Other people argue that he developed it as a result of theoretical speculation. They point to his reading Malthus on population in 1838

 


Rene Descartes
Born
1596, died 1650

French philosopher. One of the founders of European rationalism. (Where I outline his ideas)

Descartes argued that it empirical evidence is insubstantial, but one's own existence is certain, because in order to think you must be:

"I observed that, whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, I think, therefore I am (cogito ergo sum), was so certain and of such evidence that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search"

From this first principle, his reason deduced, in no more than the turning of a page, that God exists and that truth lies in clear conception.

 

John Dewey
Born 20.10.1859, died 1.6.1952
books - weblinks -

An American philosopher who initiated a version of Pragmatism: a philosophical concept, which evaluates thought on the basis of usefulness for practical action.

At Johns Hopkins University, John Dewey was attracted to both the biological evolution ideas of Thomas Henry Huxley, the friend of Darwin, and Hegel's, earlier, historical analysis of the evolution of ideas.

Dewey argued that it is only in the struggle of intelligent organisms with the surrounding environment that theories acquire significance, and only with a theory's success in this struggle that it becomes true. He rejected abstract conceptions of "truth", and quoted Charles Sanders Peirce (1839- 1914) the founder of American pragmatism) to define what truth is to him.

"The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate is what we mean by the truth, and the object represented by this opinion is the real." (Dewey, J. 1938/Log, p. 345, quoting from volume 5, p.268 of the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Pierce)

According to Dewey, the organisation of society does not grow out of ideas. For example, the American political system is not formed around the concept of democracy. It is the other way round. On the basis of changes which occur, and forms of active organisational practices, we develop ideas about community life.

In Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), Dewey give this description of society:

"..society is one word, but infinitely many things. It covers all the ways in which by associating together men share their experiences, and built upon common interests and aims. (Dewey, J. 1920/RP, p. 200) "Society is the process of associating in such ways that experiences, ideas, emotions, values are transmitted and made common." (Dewey, J. 1920/RP, p. 207)

See the Durkheim Dewey Page by Andrea Nagy

1896 - 1909 - 1916 - 1920 - 1922 - 1927 - 1930 - 1931 - 1935 -

 

Emile Durkheim
Born 15.4.1858, died 15.11.1917
Read the extracts from his works
books

Durkheim is often thought of as the founder of sociology, the science of society. He developed Rousseau's concept that society is not the sum of its individual members, but is a reality in itself, based on the general will. Durkheim removed this from its origin in State of Nature Theory. He argued that humans are by nature social. Society is not something that came about by individuals joining together. We have always been part of society. Society is, therefore, a reality which we can study, and Durkheim's project was to develop the scientific study of it.

See Social Science History, chapter six: Durkheim and Weber's contrasting imaginations: Who is the Sociologist?, for a fuller discussion of the issues

crime and
deviancy
timeline crime


Albert Einstein
Born
1879, died 1955
Einstein was a theoretical physicist who created the general theory of relativity. This rejects an important part of Newtonian physics which treats space and time as fixed dimensions that provide a framework for all the bodies in the universe. Instead, it considers space and time as relative to the viewpoint of the observer and the object or process being observed. See proof



John Etienne Dominique Esquirol
Born
1772, died 1840

A student of Philippe Pinel who succeeded him as physician in chief at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris in 1811. In 1823 he became chief inspector at the University of Paris and in 1826 he was appointed chief physician at the asylum in Charenton, France. In 1838 he collected and amended his writings (from 1812) into Des maladies mentales, considées sous les rapports medédical, hygienique et médico-légal published in Paris. This was translated into English as Mental Maladies. A Treatise on Insanity in 1845 (Philadelphia). Several parts were translated individually much earlier and Esquirol's ideas were circulated in England by a number of doctors.

 
the mother
suckling her
child has a special significance
for Rousseau. Click to find out more
Family a part of society

    Writing over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle said the family arose out of relations between husband and wife and master and slave. This should alert us that there are broader concepts of family than just parents and children. The origin of the English word is household (Latin familia - from famulus: servant)

One of the reasons family is discussed by social theorists is its theoretical implication for social theory generally.

Robert Filmer, in the 17th century, and and Roger Scruton, in the 20th, for example, both construct views of society around the idea of family. Both theorists contrast the idea that "contract" is the foundation of society, with their own view that society is better understood by thinking about the relations that exist in the family, between parents and children. Scruton sees the family model as a "conservative" model and contract as the "liberal" model.

The title of Jean Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract shows that it is in the contractual, liberal camp. However he combines his contractual theory with an analysis of family bonds as the basis of society:

"The family then may be called the first model of political societies: the ruler corresponds to the father, and the people to the children; and all, being free and equal, alienate their liberty only for their own advantage."

Family relations include those between adult partners as well as those between adults and children. Aristotle conceptualised the difference between these relations, but wives have often been thought of theoretically as similar to children in their relation to the male "head" of the household.

Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill, two liberal theorists, argued in an 1848 essay that an authoritarian, hierarchical, paternalist relationship in which women are dependent on men is unsuitable to a modern society based on self determination. Mill elaborated on this in The Subjection of Women (1869), arguing that egalitarian families would educate people for democratic political societies.

Sigmund Freud contrasted his theories of society and human relations, based on an analysis of the unconscious mind, with the consciously rational analysis of Mill (and Taylor). Mill imagined society and family based on freely determined relations been autonomous adults, educating children in a school of freedom. Freud analysed the family as the site of deadly conflicts, conflicts that are paralleled in society and history.

One of the issues in dispute between these theorists is the nature of science. Those who support the family model against a contract model tend to argue that their model is based on analysis of what is real (a "thing" as Durkheim would say) rather than on a philosophic rationalism that relates more to what some people might want society to be then to what it is. (See the positivist distinction between science and philosophy)

History of the family: Historically the family has taken different forms. Engels argues that the study of these forms began with a German writer Bachofen in 1861. To gain an broad overview of the forms Engels suggests, see my Summary of Historical Materialism which has links to extracts from Engels.

William Farr
Born 1807, died 1883
books and weblinks

English Statistician. Superintendent of the statistical department of the registrar-general from 1838 to 1880. He wrote many articles on medical matters before being appointed to the statistical department. Some of these were published in Thomas Wakley's journal The Lancet. Farr's article Vital Statistics was published in 1832 in MacCulloch's Account of the British Empire. Vital here means life. Farr was using statistics to study life and death. How he did so can be seen in his Report on the Mortality of Lunatics to the Statistical Society in 1841

 
Robert Filmer
Born 1588, died 1653
books

Filmer claimed that the family is the natural form of government and that states are developed from it. Like Scruton today, he thought that imagining political society as a contract between people is unrealistic, and that the family is a better model for understanding political society. Filmer was an enthusiastic royalist, who wrote pamphlets in defence of the authority of the state, arguing that kings have a divine right to rule. He had a religious and a secular argument: The religious argument derives the ruler's right from Adam, the first man in the world according to the Jewish, Christian and Islamic bibles. God, according to the Bible, made Adam lord over creation and over his wife, and the ten commandments say that people should honour their parents. According to Filmer, this divine right to rule has passed down to all future kings. His secular argument is an attack on the idea that societies are constructed by us, for our own purposes. Filmer says that this is contrary to what we observe. Very little choice enters into the relations of everyday life. We accept what is already established.

 


Michel Foucault
Born
1926, died 1984

See timeline - books - extracts - weblinks - Pearce
The reviews and the extracts include some biographical material

Foucault investigates structures of ideas. He calls these structures "discourses". Examples of discourses include psychoanalysis and marxism.

He explores ideas as structures of power and as structures of discovery.

He explores how a structure of ideas, like the ideas that created institutions based on surveillance, are related to power.

He explores structures of ideas as a search for truth. He describes "truth" as a "system of ordered procedures" governing statements. Different discourses have different rules (ordered procedures) for how true statements are to be produced.



The following quotation from an essay entitled "Prison Talk" is often quoted as a summary of Foucault's argument about the relationship between knowledge and power:

"Knowledge and power are integrated with one another, and there is no point in dreaming of a time when knowledge will cease to depend on power; this is just a way of reviving humanism in a utopian guise. It is not possible for power to be exercised without knowledge, it is impossible for knowledge not to engender power." (Foucault, M. 1980, p.52)

 
James George Frazer 1854-1941 books - extracts

James Frazer's interest in anthropology was first aroused, in Easter 1883, by reading E. B. Tylor's Primitive Culture (published in 1871). In the autumn of 1883 he met William Robertson Smith, who became his "most intimate friend" (E. O. James, DNB 1959)

At the invitation of Robertson Smith, James Frazer contributed the articles on Taboo and Totemism to the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica" (1888). He said that

"The researches I made for these articles', he explained, 'were the beginning of a systematic application to anthropology, and especially to a study of the backward races of men whom we call savages and barbarians." (quoted E. O. James, DNB 1959)

Frazer described Robertson Smith's Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, published in 1889, as marking "a new departure in the historical study of religion". (quoted E. O. James, DNB 1959)

James Frazer first published The Golden Bough: a study in comparative religion in two volumes in 1890. He expanded it to three volumes in 1900. The third edition began to be published in 1911. Extra volume appeared in 1911, 1912 and 1913, and an index volume in 1915. An aftermath volume was separately published in 1936. An abridged edition, by Frazer and his wife, was published in 1922.

 

Sigmund Freud
Born 6.5.1856, died 23.9.1939.

Freud was the founder of Psychoanalysis.
  It started with Blanche Whittman's faints. Click the picture to read about her.

Many theories of human nature and society make reason a central and powerful element. Freud believed that he had discovered a scientific route to a source of human conduct that underlies, and overrides, reason.

Psychoanalysis is a technique of listening to people who have relaxed their guard on what they reveal (to themselves or others) of the contents of their minds.

On the basis of what he heard from his patients, using this technique, Freud claimed that central processes of our thinking are unconscious. A consequence of this is that reason cannot be relied on. When we give a reason for something we do, we are probably making it up - because the true reason is unconscious!

If Freud's basic theories are true, we need to rethink all social theories with reason as a central component. To be scientific, all human conduct needs to be interpreted in terms of a hidden drama that Freud discovered in the human unconscious. In 1913 he wrote:

"the beginnings of religion, morals, society and art converge in the Oedipus complex"

To explain the drama he believed relates the development of individuals and the development of societies, Freud used Greek mythology. He called a vital part of it the "Oedipus Complex" after a character in Greek myth who (unknowingly) killed his father and had sex with his mother.

According to Freud, the "performance" of this drama in our childhood, constructs our character. It is not our genitals that give us male or female personalities, but the roles we play in this drama with respect to our mother (or her equivalent) and her lover (conventionally, our father). Freud, therefore saw a distinction between male and female (personalities) as having a central effect on the content of our minds. He disagreed with those theorists (e.g. Plato, Wollstonecraft, Taylor and Mill) who had argued that, in almost everything except physical organs and ability to bear and breast feed children, men and women are essentially the same.

For Freud, the drama of the Oedipus Complex, revealed in psychoanalysis, explains why we accept authority. In this case, the authority of our father, but the issue is generalised to all authority. Freud argued this in his sociological writings, where he recounted a parallel anthropological myth of the slaying of the primal father and his resurrection in religious sacrament.

 


William Godwin
Born
1756, died 1836

William Godwin's book Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, started in 1791 published in February 1793 is intended to "philosophically place the principles of politics on an immovable basis". It begins with a summary of those principles.

Godwin was educated as a rationalist dissenter from the established church. His political theories formed the basis of anarchism. His version of anarchism being a belief that the state would become unnecessary as human beings developed their powers of moral and political self-determination.


Olympe de Gouges
Born
1748, Died 1793

French feminist writer.

An English translation of her Rights of Woman

from Social Science History, which has references

Olympe de Gouges was a young widow who taught herself to write. She began to write in 1780 and published her memoirs in 1784. She published her first political pamphlet in November 1788 and numerous political writings followed, including her Declaration of the Rights of Woman.

Her vivid imagination overcame the disadvantages of her bad spelling and poor punctuation and her meaning forced its way through her unorthodox prose.

An enthusiastic writer of plays, she was also a champion of freedom for slaves. In December 1789 her play on The Slavery of Black People was performed in a Paris theatre, but the audience hissed it and it had to be taken off after three performances.

She believed passionately that the philosophy of natural freedom, that inspired the Declaration of the Rights of Man, should apply equally to every human being.

Her writings combine the image of family embracing the whole of humanity with that of a social contract establishing the law of reason for the whole of humanity. It was natural, therefore, for her pamphlet on the rights of women to embrace the family, the nation as a family, and human beings of all colours as one family.

 

Wilhelm Griesinger
Born 1817, died 1869

German psychiatrist who argued E. H. Ackernecht's words) that:

"Normal people have many experiences analogous to states of insanity, for example in dreams, during febrile delirius and in toxic states. While dreaming and in the delirium of mental illness one reacts to bodily sensations without being aware of doing so. In both states critical faculties are lost and in both we notice the gratification of wishes which, unfulfilled in reality, had been repressed. Sleep induced by magnetism and somnambulism are also allied to states of insanity."

 

Georg Friedrich Hegel
Born
1770, died 1831

German Professor of Philosophy. Hegel believed that the whole of history is the development of reason, and he attempted to describe it all. His work is monumental. It incorporates all the major strands of philosophy that he was aware of, from the beginning of time to his own time. Part of the intellectual structure that he provides is an analysis of society into three components. These are (roughly speaking) the state, the economy, and the family.

Hegel's thought is frequently looked at as a background to that of Marx and Engels, but it is also of value in its own right.




Martin Heidegger
Born
1889, died 1976

German existentialist philosopher. Heidegger had Nazi sympathies, but his wide influence has related to his philosophy, not his politics. He was a major influence on the left-wing French existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre.

Judith Harding has the following passage from Heidegger on her wall. It is intended to remind her that what she calls "new ways of thinking about teaching and learning" are not new. She says it reminds her that these approaches have always been part of some thinking, "from Socrates on".

    "Teaching is more difficult than learning. We know that; but we rarely think about it. And why is teaching more difficult than learning? Not because the teacher must have a larger store of information, and have it always ready. Teaching is more difficult than learning because what teaching calls for is this: to let learn. The real teacher, in fact, lets nothing else be learned than---learning. His conduct, therefore, often produces the impression that we properly learn nothing from him, if by 'learning' we now suddenly understand merely the procurement of useful information. The teacher is ahead of his apprentices in this alone, that he has still far more to learn than they---he has to learn to let them learn. The teacher must be capable of being more teachable than the apprentices. The teacher is far less assured of his ground than those who learn are of theirs. If the relation between the teacher and the taught is genuine, therefore, there is never a place in it for the authority of the know-it- all or the authoritative sway of the official. It still is an exalted matter, then, to become a teacher---which is something else entirely than becoming a famous professor".
 
Leviathan Thomas Hobbes:
Born 1588, died 1679

Hobbes,
Locke, Rousseau and, to a certain extent, Wollstonecraft, all used a type of theory that we call State of Nature Theory. This tries to explain human society and culture by imagining what men and women would be like if we were not part of society: if we were "uncivilized" or "in a state of nature".

Each theorist argues for different characteristics to our uncivilised, animal, natures. Consequently each theorist draws different conclusions about society and civilization.
Hobbes argued that in a state of nature we are self-seeking. Without civilization we are always ready to destroy or exploit one another if it suits our purpose. As a result, life is nasty, brutish and short. It is so horrible that we are rationally willing to accept the rule of anyone who can establish order.

Robotics: "Bar Bot" (external link) is a 21st century Austrian Robot that talks to you about beer. It is driven by self-interest - a desire to drink beer. Once you have given it some money, it buys the beer, drinks the beer, and settles down to talk to you about giving it some more money to drink beer. Another Robot, or machine-human, is the more sophisticated Japanese "ifbot" (external link) (another), made by Yoshimichi Hashiba, which approaches (in some respects) the conversational skills of a five year old child. The theory behind machine- humans can be traced back to philosophical scientists such as Hobbes and Descartes

 

David Hume
Born
1711, died 1776
A Scottish philosopher and one of the founders of European empiricism.

Hume undermined confidence in the power of reason. He believed that all real knowledge is based on experience, but he argued that our powers to build knowledge on experience are very limited. (see What is Science?)

In the empirical tradition, reason builds on experience, and Hume's fundamental doubt about the validity of the process undermines the argument of Mary Wollstonecraft that reason is the power that is taking us, via a lot of accidents, towards an ever better future. (see What is Science?). Wollstonecraft, however, had read the German philosopher Kant, whose synthesis of the empirical and rational traditions salvaged the possibility of reliable knowledge, and with it the philosophical foundations of the belief in progress based on reason.

Hume's doubts can also be seen as opening the door for theories that explore below the surface of reason. For example, they opened the door to Freud's psychoanalysis and his theory of the unconscious.

See the timeline for extracts and other resources.
External link to Wikipedia article on David Hume

Immanuel Kant
Born
1724, died 1804

German philosopher who made a very influential synthesis of rationalism and empiricism. Empiricists, such as Locke and Hume, argued that all our knowledge comes from experience, or from reflection on experience. Rationalists argued that empirical knowledge is uncertain and only reason can lead us to truth.

Knowledge that comes from experience is a-posteriori This is Latin for from what comes after and just means that the knowledge comes from (after) the experience. Hume's self-critical examination of empiricism appeared to show that very little knowledge could be reliably based on experience alone. In many fields, Hume's philosophy seemed to have proved that scientific knowledge is impossible. Kant's philosophy sought to explain why science can be relied on, even if experience, alone, is an inadequate base.

Kant argued that some knowledge is prior to experience of the world - and necessary to knowledge of the world. This knowledge is called a-priori (Latin meaning from what is before). However, he showed in his Critique of Pure Reason that reason on its own can not produce reliable results. He did this by using antinomies: An antinomy is proving two contradictory things at the same time. For example: the world has a beginning and an end/ the world is infinite. Or Everything has a cause/Everything does not have a cause. If pure reason can prove contradictions it is hardly reliable.

Reason, Kant argued, provides categories with which we interpret empirical observation. Both are needed to understand the world or to build a science. These categories are mental structures like space, time and causation that we use to structure our experiences. Because we cannot experience without organising what we experience, we have to distinguish between what actually exists (the thing in itself) and what we perceive (called the phenomena). The "thing in itself" is also called noumenon (single) or noumena (plural). It is the reality behind appearances.

I have oversimplified Kant above. Kant calls time and space a-priori perceptions (read Kant), not categories. The categories of understanding are a-priori conceptions. The categories include causality and dependence (cause and effect). Durkheim, on the other hand, does call time and space categories. (read Durkheim)

Phenomenology is concerned with how the world appears to us

Kant reasoned, however, that there is a world to which reason gives us direct access. This is the world of morality, which he calls practical reason. This is a world of freedom rather than cause. It is a world that is special to being human. The nature of being human is to be governed by reason rather than instinct. An animal is caused to do something by its instincts. The beginning of morality in humans is saying "no" to instinct. crime and
deviancy
timeline crime

Kant's idea of practical reason was developed from Rousseau's idea of the general will. It is something that comes from our being social.

"In man (as the only rational creature on earth), those natural capacities which are directed towards the use of his reason are such that they could be fully developed only in the species, but not in the individual."

Our moral freedom from instinct is not freedom to do what we please, but freedom to act according to the laws of reason that we discover.

"Reason, in a creature, is a faculty which enables that creature to extend far beyond the limits of natural instinct the rules and intentions it follows in using its various powers, and the range of its projects is unbounded. But reason does not itself work instinctively, for it requires trial, practice and instruction to enable it to progress gradually from one stage of insight to the next."

The moral laws we discover through reason are the categorical imperatives, unconditional moral obligations derived from pure reason. (the things we must do). Through his own reasoning, Kant concludes that there is one basic categorical imperative, the mother of them all:

"There is therefore but one categorical imperative, which may be thus stated: Act in conformity with that maxim, and that maxim only, which you can at the same time will to be a universal law."

 

James Philips Kay
Born
20.7.1804, died 1877

Plain Kay until 1842 when he married the heiress to the Shuttleworth's of Gawthorpe and became Kay-Shuttleworth.

Born in Rochdale, Lancashire. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University from 1824 to 1827. He worked and studied conditions in slum areas of Manchester. He helped to set up the Ancoats and Ardwick Dispensary, and became its medical officer. His well known pamphlet on The Moral And Physical Condition of the Working Classes Employed In the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester, grew out of work with the Manchester Board of Health. He was secretary to the Board during the cholera epidemic of 1832. In 1833 he helped establish the Manchester Statistical Society. After an unsuccessful bid to become a Chancery Visitor in April 1833, he was appointed an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner in 1835. [See Charles Mott file] On 11.4.1839 he became Assistant Secretary to the Committee of the Privy Council on Education - although effectively running it. With E.C. Tufnell, he set up The Battersea Normal School (Teacher Training) at their own risk in 1840. He retired in 1849, when he was knighted.

Frank Emmett, who is researching the career of James Kay, has provided me with much of the information I have used about Kay. See also Spartacus School Net, Cotton Times


 

Ronald Laing
Born Glasgow 7.10.1927, died 23.8.1989
books


Scottish Psychiatrist and existentialist. Laing was a psychiatrist who argued that "insane" statements by mentally ill people are statements that make sense if correctly interpreted. He believed that the thought processes that psychiatrists call "schizophrenic" are the result of people being subjected to a particular form of self contradictory dialogue within their family. Laing's theories became part of a left wing political criticism of the family. Laing can be usefully contrasted with
Scruton.

David Cooper
Born Cape Town 1931, came to London 1955
books

 
John Locke
Born
1632, died 1704
John Locke was an English philosopher and one of the founders of European empiricism. His theory of knowledge is that everything in our heads ( ideas ) comes originally from observation of the real world. False ideas are the result of putting simple observations together in the wrong order. To obtain true ideas we must trace our ideas back to their original observations, to make sure that the ideas in our head hang together in the same order in reality. Reason is the power we use to trace our ideas back to their original observations. (See Locke's Essay on Understanding)

Locke's
Treatise In his political theory, Locke was concerned to establish that it can be rational for subjects to protest against injustice in a ruler.

He claimed that human beings are governed by reason before they enter into political society. This natural reason is enough to allow us to establish reasonably civilized relations without a ruler forcing his or her will upon us.

When we do enter political society, it is in order more effectively to enforce the rule of reason. This law has to govern the conduct of the ruler as well as the subjects.

 

Thomas Malthus
Born 1766, died 1834

See Wealth and Poverty: Malthus and Ricardo

 

Karl Marx
Born 1818, died 1883
and
Friedrich Engels
Born 1820, died 1895
Timeline 1848 and index of
Marx and Engels resources

Marx books - extracts index
Engels books - extracts index

Marx and Engels were collaborators in the production of what they saw as a scientific analysis of human history from the perspective of socialism. They described themselves as communists, and their writings are the classical texts of communism and "marxism".

As with all major theorists, there are different interpretations of their work. It is usually agreed, however, that they argued for a materialist interpretation of society and history. They used concepts about how human societies change the material world in order to exist, as the key concepts to explain everything that humans do. The key to history is an analysis of successive modes of production, and the motor that moves history is class conflict within those modes of production. The analysis of these would be a distinguishing feature of any marxist theory, whether it concerned crime, economics, psychology, music, literature, gender relations, family relations or whatever. This approach is called historical materialism.

crime and
deviancy
timeline Click weeping Stan to see what Engels' thought criminal statistics show us about the connection between crime and economics

Engels and gender

Some people argue that Engels distorted Marx. Whatever the truth about this, it is difficult to discuss Marx's views on gender without discussing Engels.

Towards the end of his life, Marx became interested in the anthropological reports of Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881). Morgan argued that human society has three inter-related spheres: production, reproduction (i.e. the family and child rearing) and government. Something happening in one sphere would have repercussions for something happening in another.

When Marx died, Engels inherited his manuscripts, including his notes on Morgan. Engels developed Marx's notes on historical materialism and the family into a book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State in 1884.

This is an important book in its own right. It is also important because a number of modern feminist theorists have developed their theories as criticisms of Engels.

In 1949, Simone De Beauvoir started The Second Sex by analysing biological, psychoanalytic (Freudian) and historical materialist (Engels) perspectives on women, and argues that they are partial. From her existentialist view, biology, sex and economics cannot determine a woman's destiny

"In our attempt to discover woman we shall not reject certain contributions of biology, of psychoanalysis, and of historical materialism; but we shall hold that the body, the sexual life, and the resources of technology exist concretely for [a human being] only in so far as he [or she] grasps them in the total perspective of his [or her] existence."

In 1971, Shulamith Firestone also began with criticisms of Engels and Freud. The first chapter of her book The Dialectic of Sex is a good introduction to Engels, and I have used its chart to construct my notes on Engels. The chart shows how, according to Engels, the state, the family and the economy change together over time. The notes include a description of the tribal organisation of politics in the Iroquois Confederation.

Engels speculates on the future relations of the genders under communism. William Morris was one of the (very) few marxist socialists who has imagined in print what communism would be like. He did this in the novel News from Nowhere which he published in 1890.

 

Robert King Merton
Born 5.7.1910, died 2003
Extracts
crime and
deviancy
timeline crime

Merton was a pupil of Talcott Parsons at Harvard University (1931). Like Parsons, he analyses society in terms of structure and function and investigates the relation between social structure and culture . Whereas Parsons concerns himself mainly with theory and with theory that explains the whole of society, Merton was most interested in theory on a smaller scale and how such theory could be developed to establish empirical relations with sociological data.

Postgraduate student and teaching assistant from 1933 to 1936 and then a tutor and instructor from 1936 to 1939 - In 1937 Merton was acknowledged by Talcott Parsons for particularly helpful suggestions and criticisms after reading his manuscript - 1938 - 1939 - 1941 - 1942 - 1949 - 1957 -

 

Max Müller 1823-1900 books

Born in Germany, Max Müller came to England in 1846 to study the manuscript of the Rig-Veda, the sacred hymn of hinduism. This was in the possession of the East India Company. In 1847, the company commissioned Müller to edit and publish the text. Müller was appointed professor of modern languages at Oxford University in 1854. See 1861 and 1870

 

James Mill
Born 1773, died 1836
books

James Mill, a shoemaker's son from Scotland who came to London in 1802. He became the disciple and chief propagandist of Jeremy Bentham from about 1808. Sometime before 1810 he also joined forces with the Quaker William Allen, cooperating with his magazine The Philanthropist, which became an important organ for utilitarian ideas. James Mill wrote the History of British India which was published in 1817 and 1818. Between 1816 and 1823 he wrote essays for the supplement of the Encyclopedia Britannica on government, law, the liberty of the press, prisons and prison discipline, colonies, the law of nations, and education. I have summarised the argument of his essay on government in Social Science History. He published the Elements of Political Economy in 1821 and 1822. In 1827 he was one of the founders of London University. In 1829 he published Analysis of the Human Mind , one of the first English text books of Psychology.

James Mill popularised the theoretical principles of Jeremy Bentham. It was James son, John Stuart Mill, who called those principles "utilitarianism". Utilitarianism is a theory with different possibilities according to how it is developed. The socialist version argued that the greatest human happiness would be obtained through cooperation. This was not James, version and, in the 1830s James Mill was the most widely read and influential of the Utilitarians. It was his version of the doctrine which most people would have recognised.

James broadened utilitarianism by linking it with other theories. He linked it to the egoistic psychology that Thomas Hobbes had developed. This argues that the foundation of any explanation of the human mind must be to trace its content back to the self-centred desires of the individual. He also linked utilitarianism to democracy, arguing that if we are all pursuing our own self-interest it is not safe to trust government to a minority. Every male adult must have a vote to act as a control on the government. He also linked it to laissez-faire economics, merging the theories of Bentham with those of Ricardo and other followers of Adam Smith.

It was the total package that James Mill put together that people often percieved as utilitarianism, but none of the links he made is a necessary one. Other utilitarians, includeing his own son, John Stuart Mill, as well as Thompson and Wheeler, made different links and constructed different versions of utilitrianism.

John Stuart Mill
Born 1806, died 1873
and
Harriet Taylor
Born 1807, died 1858
books


John Stuart Mill was the son of James Mill.
Like his father, he was a utilitarian philosopher and a political economist. He was also a radical liberal politician.

John Stuart Mill's A System of Logic (1843) was one of the foundations of social science. It was written to stress the importance of deduction, reason, theory and hypothesis in science, and to explore the way they relate to empirical reality and induction.

Few people read Mill's Logic nowadays (although many condemn it without reading it), so this description may come as a surprise to some people. See proof.

Harriet Taylor provided the ideas for an article On the Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes in a book by John Stuart Mill that was the standard text book on economics in the second half of the 19th century (Mill, J.S. 1848).

The article argues against paternalism and for self-determination. Paternalism is where a benevolent, but authoritarian, government provides for the welfare of the people. It is the kind of policy associated, at the time, with people like Lord Ashley.

Mill and Taylor argued that, after the basic necessities of life have been met, freedom is the most important human need. Freedom meaning, for them, the opportunity to develop one's own life according to one's own values, rather than living, however comfortably, under the control of someone else. The working class, they argued, were rightly taking this power into their own hands. Women, they added, should do the same.

In The Subjection of Women (1869), J.S. Mill argued that western society is developing from a hierarchical organisation (feudalism) to an organisation based on freedom under law. His book incorporated the ideas of the early French sociologists, St Simon and Comte, that societies are complex wholes in which legal structures, morals, customs, political, economic and family structures interrelate. The development of democracy and freedom in politics he argued, would need to be matched by a development of freedom and democracy within the family and in the relation between the sexes.

 

Juliet Mitchell
Psychoanalyst. Born New Zealand 1940. Lived in London since 1944.

Many
feminist theorists in the early 1970s criticised Freud. Mitchell is a feminist writer who argues that feminists like Simone De Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Eva Figes, Germaine Greer, Shulamith Firestone and Kate Millett, have created inadequate theories because they have missed out the essential Freud: his theory of the unconscious. Her 1974 book, Psychoanalysis and Feminism, also discusses Reich and Laing.

 

Montesquieu

Charles Secondat "Baron de Montesquieu" (l689-l755) was a French aristocrat. He was a judge, but he sold this office to devote more of his time to study. His two major works were the Persian Letters (1721) and The Spirit of the Laws (1748).

The Spirit of the Laws contains this message:

"I beg one favour of my readers, ... that they will approve or condemn the book entire, and not a few particular phrases."

It is easy to find strange or bizarre parts to the book, but Montesquieu is valued for the way he related elements to one another. The many parts of the book hang together. In it he explored natural and human laws in a way that enables us to analyse society as a whole, in relation to its parts, in relation to its history and in relation to its environment.

 


Benedict Augustin Morel
Born
1809, died 1873

Pioneer of the theory of degeneration:

"Les degenerations sont des deviations maladives du type normal de l'humanite hereditairement trans-missibles et evoluant progressivement vers la decheance." (Degenerations are deviations from the normal human type which are transmissible by heredity and which deteriorate progressively towards extinction.)

He worked on this theory from 1839 until 1857, giving it its final form in Traite des Degenerescences Physiques, Intellectuelles et Morales de I'Espece Humaine

Degeneration could be caused by intoxication, by malaria, alcohol, opium, soil conducive to cretinism, epidemics or food poisoning; the social environment; pathological temperament; moral sickness; inborn or acquired damage; or heredity. His law of two-fold fertilization stated that combined physical and moral injuries were particularly dangerous. His law of progressivity stated that the first generation of a degenerate family might be merely nervous, the second would tend to be neurotic, the third psychotic, while the fourth consisted of idiots and died out.

Morel identified changes in the head, eye, ear, genitalia and intestines which were infallible stigmata (signs) of degeneration.

( Ackernecht, E. H. 1959 ch.7 p.54)

 


Frederick Walker Mott
Born
23.10.1853, died 8.6.1926

Asylum pathologist. From 1884 a lecturer in physiology at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School. Appointed in 1895 to run the London County Council Asylums' new Central Laboratory at Claybury. He also remained a lecturer at Charing Cross.

Pathology (1900 dictionary) explains the nature, causes and symptoms of diseases and a laboratory is a building or room designed for investigation and experiment. The microscope is usually considered as the scientific apparatus that made the laboratory study of disease important. Its uses included looking for tiny life forms that might generate disease and taking a close look at body tissues. A central laboratory for asylums would be concerned with diseases that were associated with asylums. Mott investigated the possible relation that both psychosis and neurosis might have to the body. But there were other diseases associated with asylums: "epidemic disorders, such as dysentery". "Asylum dysentery" or "asylum colitis" covered a variety of gastrointestinal infections to which the patients in asylums seemed particularly prone. (See Claybury)

Mott and Durham (1900) investigated the theory that asylum colitis was due to the degeneration of the nervous tissue of insane people leading to tissue damage in the intestines, which then became infected. This was the prevalent theory, but they found no evidence for it. They therefore argued that the gastrointestinal infections in asylums were spread within the asylum, and better hygiene would prevent them. For the reduction in disease following on this report, Mott was awarded the Stewart Prize (for work on the origin, spread and prevention of epidemic disease) by the British Medical Association in 1903.

Mott followed Henry Maudsley's guidance that advances in the study of mind would follow study of corresponding body changes. He worked to show that general paralysis of the insane is an end product of syphilis. His work on General Paralysis of the Insane was published in the first volume of Archives of Neurology, which he founded 1899. "Mott became firmly impressed by the idea that bodily changes are to be found in all types of psychosis" (Nature 1926).

" Dementia praecox offered the most promising field of study, and in a series of papers on the pathology of the gonads and other endocrine organs and the vegetative nervous system in this disease, he was able to demonstrate with certainty the existence of a widespread degenerative change preceding the far slighter evidences of degeneration that could be detected in the central nervous system in advanced cases. In other psychoses similar though less marked pathological changes were encountered" (Nature 26.6.1926 p.900).

"He considered the majority of the pathological changes that he discovered in insanity are congenital... he enunciated the "Law of Anticipation", in accordance with which the onset of the psychotic symptoms appears earlier in the successive generations of a degenerate family, and thus ultimately, owing to the production of infertile juvenile psychotics, the tainted stock disappears." (Nature 26.6.1926 p.900).

The laboratory work on which Mott based his conclusions about biological degeneracy underlying the mental symptoms of dementia praecox were published in The British Medical Journal in November and December 1919. In a leading article, the journal said Mott had made clear "the biological significance and purpose of psychosis".

Some publications. See also Lord, J.R. (Editor) 1929. This article mostly based on two obituaries that Simon Hardy (Senior Lecturer in Microbiology, Brighton) drew my attention to: British Medical Journal 1926, volume one, pages 1063-1065 and Nature 1926, volume 117 pages 900-901.

 

Isaac Newton
born 1642, died 1727

English mathematician and physicist. In Principia Mathematica (1686) he set out mathematical laws of mechanics and gravitation which he applied to bodies on earth and to the movement of the planets in the heavens. Newtonian mechanics has three laws of motion:

1) that a body continues in a state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is acted on by an external force;

2) that the rate of change of momentum of a moving body is proportional to the force acting to produce the change,

3) that if one body exerts a force on another, there is an equal and opposite force (or reaction) exerted by the second body on the first.

Newton's scientific method combined mathematical theories (models) of reality with experiments

There are differences between the types of theory you use to get up in the morning and the theories that Newton used to explain how the sun gets up in the morning..

Newtonian dynamics is an example of what Khun calls a paradigm,

To fully prove a theory is either very difficult (John Stuart Mill thought Newton had done it); or impossible (Einstein, demonstrated that Newton had not done it).

 

Robert Owen
Born 1771, died 1858
books - reviews

Robert Owen was the son of an ironmonger or saddler in Wales. He left home when he was ten years old to enter the retail drapery trade in London. In 1785 he went to Manchester where, with a partner and £100 capital, he began making "mules" (Machines for spinning cotton). He became manager (and later partner in) a Mr Drinkwater's factory. In 1799 he married David Dale's daughter and in 1800 became manager and part owner of Dale's New Lanark Mills. In his management of New Lanark's 2,000 workers Owen attempted to replace violence by reason. In 1813, funding from Bentham and others enabled to continue developing the social and educational aspect of his business community. In 1815 (via Peel) he promoted A Bill to Regulate the Employment of Children in Textile Factories. Between 1812 and 1816 he published his A New View of Society or Essays on the Formation of Human Character and in 1817 his Plan for the Relief of the Poor. His plan was rejected, Owen suspected this was because of the influence of Malthus. Owen turned to publicity and efforts to get a trial community started. His views on community management moved away from paternalism towards equality and self- management. From 1824 to 1829 he was in the USA trying to establish a model community at New Harmony. When he returned to England in 1829, he found he was a guru of the labour movement. In 1831 the first Co-operative Conference was held in Manchester. 1832-1834 National Equitable Labour Exchange. Grays Inn Road. In 1833, the third congress appointed Co- operative missionaries and, in the same year the Grand National Consolidated Union was formed, partly with the dream of bringing about a new cooperative moral order. 1834 Tolpuddle Martyrs and collapse of union. The New Moral World (Journal) was founded afterwards. 1839-1845 Queenswood Community, Hampshire. [1843 Rochdale Shop]

 

Paracelsus
Born
1491, Died 1541

Phillipus Aureolus Theophratus Bombastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus

German doctor. About 1520 wrote a small book called Diseases which lead to a Loss of Reason, published in 1567. Published a clinical description of syphilis in 1530. His discussion of syphilis [Vom Holtz Guaiaco gründlicher heylung (1529) and Von der Franzüsischen kranckheit Drey Bücher (1530)] criticized current methods of treatment including the popular use of guaiac (a tropical wood resin known as the holy wood). Published his Der grossen Wundartzney (Great Surgery Book) in 1536. De Generatione Stultorum, published 1567, was translated by P. Cranefield and W. Federn as "The begetting of fools" in Bulletin of the History of Medicine 41.

Paracelsus was a pioneer of practical chemistry, analogies from which he applied to biology. For example, he argued that body organs separate the pure from the impure, just as a chemist would. So the stomach separates the parts of food that the body can use from the parts that it cannot. The waste part is got rid off through the intestines. Illness occurs when this ability in an organ fails, and poisons build up.

Paracelsus linked spiritual and material entities. His idea of pygmies (gnomes) as fairy forces associated with the earth, was drawn on by some to interpret the European discovery of very small humans in the African rain forest in the late nineteenth century.

 

Talcott Parsons
Born 1902, died 1979
and
Anthony Giddens
Born ,
Biography and writing
Extracts

After Durkheim, I consider Talcott Parsons the most significant sociologist. His work established sociology as a science in the English speaking world, as much by the criticism it raised as by its substantial merits. In the mid 20th century, Parsons was the example of American scientific sociology. But, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, his theories were the centre of criticism in schools of sociology and the idea of a scientific sociology itself was criticised. In these dangerous times, British sociologist, Anthony Giddens, set out to rescue sociology from imminent death.

I believe that Parsons and Giddens are wrong, but not as wrong as their critics. Their fault is not that they treat society as real, but that they do not treat it as real enough.

As an American sociologist, Parsons is not prepared to treat social facts as things in the way Durkheim does. Like John Stuart Mill and Max Weber, he thinks sociology has to be developed from the study of the actions of human individuals. However, Parsons argues that individual actions are directed to other people and that, in the inter-action of individuals, a social system emerges. Society, therefore, emerges as a reality.

The main theorists discussed in Parsons's The Structure of Social Action are Alfred Marshall; Vilfredo Pareto, Durkheim and Weber.

Parson's project is to find a way of conceptualising and analysing social systems without treating them as real. His critics have mainly been from the side of those who consider he went too far towards thinking about societies as real. In the 1960s and 1970s they took their arguments to the point where it seemed no sociology was possible, because the whole idea of society is a fantasy.

Anthony Giddens, in defending Sociology, has continued Parsons' project. Giddens defends the idea of social structure, but says:

    " Structure is not external to the individual but rather almost internal, as memory traces. Structure has no existence independent of the knowledge agents have about what they do in their day-to-day activity, and the duality of structure is always the main grounding of continuities in social reproduction across time and space." (Quoted from Gidden's web site)
To my mind, this is like saying that the human body has no existence external to the biological cells that compose it, and that it has no existence independent of the genetic code that those cells contain. Durkheim, by contrast, says that, although structures would not exist without elements composing them, the whole organism is real and the meaning of the parts is found in their relation to the whole. The cells of a biological body and the individuals in a social organism are replaced, whilst the body and the society continue.

 
Plato's
Republic Plato
born about 427BC, died 347BC

Greek philosopher.

Plato (following Socrates) argued that men and women have the same virtues, although usually present in different amounts.

Reason is the virtue needed for government, so a women whose reason is strongly developed is as acceptable a candidate for the governing class as a man with similarly developed reason. This argument has led some commentators to consider Plato an early founder of feminist theory. Compare with Platos' pupil, Aristotle

 

James Cowles Prichard
born
1786, died 1848

James Cowles Prichard helped to found both anthropology and psychiatry in England. Born in Bristol where the ships brought people from every part of the world, Prichard developed and early interest in the different types or races of humanity. Working on a combination of Biblical and secular theory, Prichard argued that all human beings had descended from common ancestors (Adam and Eve). He also argued that those common ancestors were black. Lighter skinned people evolved from these original ancestors, and as they did so, their intellects and civilisation evolved as well. Western Europeans were, he thought, the branch of the human family that had evolved furthest intellectually and culturally, but races would evolve to the same level with time.

Prichard also wrote the first English textbook for psychiatrists. It was based on French work, and included the concept of moral insanity.

See biography

external link about USA craniologist Samuel George Morton who took the contrary view to Prichard, believing the varieties of humanity had different origins - and black people are naturally inferior.

 

Richard Price
born
1723, died 1791

Born Glamorganshire, Wales. Doctor of Divinity (Glasgow) 1769. Preacher at Newington Green 1758-1791. Published Observations on Civil Liberty and the War with America 1776

Joseph Priestley
born
1733, died 1804

12.6.1766 "Joseph Priestley of Warrington, Doctor of laws, Author of a chart of Biography, and several other valuable works, a gentleman very well versed in mathematical and philosophical enquiries" became a Fellow of the Royal Society on the proposal (amongst others) of Richard Price and Benjamin Franklin - 1767: The history and present state of electricity, with original experiments

1768: An essay on the first principles of government and on the nature of political, civil, and religious liberty sets out principle of happiness of the great majority

1772: The history and present state of discoveries relating to vision, light, and colours

Also 1772 (Second edition 1782?) Institutes of natural and revealed religion

December 1772 to 1780 Priestley worked as the librarian to William Petty (1737-1805), Lord Shelburne, at Bowood House, Wiltshire.

1.8.1774: In the laboratory at Bowood House, Priestley isolated oxygen, which he called dephlogisticated air, air from which everything except its life giving properties has been removed. A few days later, he visited Paris with Shelburne and met Lavoisier, to whom he communicated his discovery. - 1774: Experiments and observations on different kinds of air

Phlogiston was a way of explaining burning. The theory argued that solid combustible materials contain phlogiston which escapes into the air when they are burnt. So, when a match burns, the black remains are the dephlogisticated material. A match will burn very brightly in oxygen, as (according to this theory) the air re-absorbs phlogiston. Lavoisier argued that this was wrong, claiming that when materials burn, there is a combination, not a separation of elements. In modern terms, a burning match involves carbon (in the match) joining with oxygen to form the gas carbon dioxide. Deciding that Priestley was wrong and Lavoisier right depended, in part, on discovering ways of accurately weighing the gases produced by combustion.

1775: Edited and annotated David Hartley's theory of the human mind: Hartley's (D.) Theory of the human mind; with essays relating to the subject of it

Philosophical empiricism; interspersed with various observations relating to different kinds of air (Also 1775)

1777 (Second edition 1782?) Disquisitions relating to matter and spirit and The doctrine of philosophical necessity illustrated

1782: An history of the corruptions of Christianity

1788: Lectures on history and general policy

14.7.1791: House burnt - moved from Birmingham to Hackney - 7.4.1794 The Priestley's sailed for America - 1795: Answer to Thomas Paine

6.2.1804 Died Northumberland, Pennsylvania, USA

 

Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) books


German Sexologist. Reich was one of a number of German theorists, between the wars, who tried to integrate the theories of Marx and Freud. Reich came to the conclusion that if we are to have political liberation, we must also have sexual liberation. According to him, political regimes control people by sexual as well as by political repression. The way to a better world is, for Reich, the opposite of the way that Plato argued for. Plato's ideal world is one where reason governs passion, Reich's is a world in which passion frees itself from the constraints and distortions that political repression builds into our character.


David Ricardo
Born 1772, died 1823

See Wealth and Poverty: Malthus and Ricardo
Also the timeline for explanations and texts.

 
Jean Jacques Rousseau
Born 1712, died 1778

Rousseau helped to lay the foundations for the social sciences, because he argued that reason within society is radically different from reason outside society. So different, in fact, that reason can be said to not exist outside society.

Reason is engendered by human consciousness of the general will, the interest of all, as opposed to the narrow will of the individual.

extracts
Women are closer to nature than men. They do not partake of the general will to the same extent as men as their closeness to the biological functions of childbearing and rearing makes them too concerned with defending their individual family to share in the rationality of the wider culture.

This is very important for society and politics. Women, although unsuited to take part in politics, inspire men to patriotism because they stir in men the desire to defend their hearth and home. By arguing for separate and different reasons in men and women, Rousseau develops the tradition of
Aristotle.

 

Georg Simmel
Born 1858, died 1918

Georg Simmel attempted to create a sociology that is based on forms of interaction between people. He thought of society as a web or network of interactions. An institution, like the family, was thought of as a routine way in which individuals interact.

 


Henri Saint Simon and
Auguste Comte

Claude Henri Comte de Saint-Simon
Born 17.10.1760, died 19.5.1825

Early French Socialist. Precursor of Sociology. See life and the outline of ideas as they were reflected in John Stuart Mill's account of his theories.

Saint Simon wrote L'Industrie (1817), L'Organisateur (1819), Du Systeme Industriel (1821), Catechisme des Industriels (1823), and Nouveau Christianisme (1825).

According to Saint-Simon, history consists of a succession of social orders and the movement from one order to the next is triggered by the rise of a new class . Different ideas fit different periods of history. (See Chart) The ideas that suited the medieval, or feudal, order of society do not suit the present day social order. The first of the leading peculiarities of the present age is that it is an age of transition. Mankind have outgrown old institutions and old doctrines, and have not yet acquired new ones. (See lecture notes on John Stuart Mill)

Saint Simon developed ideas about the role of science and scientists in society that Auguste Comte later called "positivism".

Auguste Comte
Born
20.1.1798, died 1857

Disciple of Saint-Simon from 1818, to 1824. Author of Cours de Philosophie Positive (6 volumes), published 1830, to 1842; translated into English 1853. The word Sociologie was first coined in volume four (1839). Comte argued that sociology would have two closely inter-related parts, statics and dynamics. Statics would be about social organisation and stability, dynamics about change and history. John Stuart Mill thought that Comte had shown how to develop the study of history into a science.

Comte divided the history of ideas into three stages:
1) theological   2) philosophical (critical) and 3) scientific (positive).

In chapter two of Social Science History the theories of Robert Filmer are an example of a theological explanation of society. John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau might be taken as examples of what Comte meant by philosophical theories. Comte himself and Emile Durkheim, who followed him, are examples of positive theorists. However, theorists do not fit that cleanly into the categories. Filmer, for example can also be interpreted as a precursor of positivism, because of his emphasis on studying the reality that actually is.

 

Roger Scruton
Born
1944

English conservative theorist who distinguishes family and contract models of politics.

Scruton tries to establish a theoretical base for conservatism as distinct from liberalism.

He argues that conservatism is aligned with theories of society and political allegiance that take the family as the model. None of us chose our parents. There is no contract between us. We owe them allegiance because they have power over us and because they care for us. This loyalty, Scruton argues, is extended to the wider society.

In contrast to conservative theories, he says, liberal theories are based on contract. They assume some kind of bargain or agreement between the ruler and the subjects. Locke 's theory could be taken as an example here.

One of the theorists that Scruton criticises is Laing.


Slavery

Slavery is a property relationship. The slave is owned. The English word had its origin in a Latin word for "captive", on the basis that people captured in war lost all rights and became the property of their captors.

One of the reasons slavery is discussed by social theorists is its theoretical implication for social theory generally.

For example,
Aristotle compares and contrasts the relationship within the family of men and women and masters and slaves. He argues that the relations are natural, but that they are of different kinds.

  Timechecks: Aristotle colonial slavery Rousseau

Rousseau argues that slavery is not only not natural, but against nature. The relations between man and women, however, are according to nature.

Both these theorists relates his view of slavery and gender to his view of society and the family.

Olympe de Gouges does the same, but she paints with a very broad brush. She claims that both slavery and gender domination are contrary to nature because the human race is a family ; and that, she says, entails freedom for everyone.


Adam Smith
Born
1723, died 1790

 

Thomas Spencer Baynes 24.3.1823-1887
William Robertson Smith 8.11.1846-31.3.1894
Editors of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica

Thomas Spencer Baynes was a journalist and academic with wide interests. In Edinburgh Review his essays included one on Cox's Aryan Mythology in October 1870, Tylor's Primitive Culture in January 1872, and Darwin on the expression of emotions in April 1873.

In 1873 Baynes took on general editorship of the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first volumes of which were published in 1875. The last volumes were published, after his death. In the "Prefatory Notice" (1.1.1875) Baynes said the Encyclopedia should function as

"to some extent at least, an instrument as well as a register of scientific progress"

Recent scientific advances had altered the classification of knowledge and Baynes had taken advice from T. H. Huxley and Clerk Maxwell about this. As well as "the comparatively modern science of Anthropology" he would attempt a scientific treatment of the arts, history, philosophy, geography, and mythology.

Robert Crawford, Oxford DNB 2004

Edward Burnett Tylor wrote eleven articles for the Encyclopedia

William Robertson Smith was a Scottish theologian and social theorist. He was Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at the Free Church College in Aberdeen from 1870 to May 1881, when he was sacked because of the implications of Encyclopedia Britannica articles that he wrote. These articles were for the ninth edition. A minor one on Angel in volume two, and a major one on Bible in volume three, appeared in 1875.

Others were on Chronicles, Canticles, David and Eve.

Volume 11 of the Encyclopedia Britannica appeared on 8.6.1880. It contained Robertson Smith's articles on Haggai, Hebrew Language and Literature and The Epistle to the Hebrews. These, especially the major one on Hebrew language and literature, and an article in the [Cambridge] Journal of Philology (9.17. pages 75-100) on 1.6.1880, called "Animal Worship and Animal Tribes among the Arabs and in the Old Testament" (a study in totemism) finally led to his dismissal on 24.5.1881.

He spent the winter of 1879-1880 in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. The winter of 1880-1881 was spent in Egypt and Arabia. He observed the customs of desert communities and applied his observations on the use of totems to his research.

Shortly after his dismissal, Robertson Smith became the associate editor in chief of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which was concluded in 1888. (Last volumes published 1889?). Articles he wrote himself included Levites, Messiah, Prophet, Priest, Sacrifice (volume 21, 1886) and Tithes.

Robertson Smith published The Old Testament in the Jewish Church in 1881 and The Prophets of Israel in 1882

Robertson Smith met James Frazer (at Trinity College, Cambridge) in 1883. Frazer's articles on Taboo and Totem were published in volume 23 of the Encyclopedia in 1888.

In 1887, Robertson Smith was appointed to give a series of lectures between 1888 and 1891 on "The Primitive Religions of the Semitic Peoples, viewed in relation to other Ancient Religions, and to the Spiritual Religion of the Old Testament and Christianity". He gave three series of lectures and the first was published as Lectures on the Religion of the Semites. First series. The Fundamental Institutions in 1889. A revised edition was published shortly after his death on 31.3.1894.

James Frazer's The Golden Bough (1890) is dedicated "To my friend William Robertson Smith in gratitude and admiration"

Freud's use of Robertson Smith in Totem and Taboo (1913) - Freud was familar with Robertson Smith's Encyclopedia article on Sacrifice and James Frazer's articles on Totem and Taboo. He read The Religion of the Semites just after he started writing Totem and Taboo. (See Gordon Booth's "The Fruits of Sacrifice: Sigmund Freud and William Robertson Smith", first published in Expository Times, volume 111 (8) in 2002

 
Plato's Meno Socrates

We mainly know about Socrates through the work of Plato. If you click on the image of Socrates arguing it will take you to Socrates' dialogue with Meno over the nature of reason in men and women.

 

Herbert Spencer
Born 1820, died 1903
books - extracts

Herbert Spencer was the most influential social theorist of the second half of the 19th century, his dominance matching or exceeding that of Parsons and his associates in the 1950s and 1960s. His thought became organised around the principles of "evolution and dissolution".

Spencer began his working life (from 17 to 26) as an engineer on the London to Birmingham railway. He published articles on bridge construction and geometry. He then became sub-editor of the Economist until 1853, after which he devoted himself to his theories and writing.

Published Social Statics in 1850 [?].

In 1852 Spencer published a paper called "A Theory of Population" which contained a more elaborate theory of the development of society than in his previous work. Included in this was the argument that an important aspect of the process of development had been "the struggle for existence" and the principle of "the survival of the fittest".

His Principles of Psychology in 1855 applied an evolutionary approach to mental life.

In 1857 he published an essay "Progress: its Law and Cause" [?] in which he argued that the law of evolution and dissolution applies to everything. It is the key to understanding the inorganic world, the organic world and what he called the super-organic world of society.

His huge Synthetic Philosophy was conceived in 1858.

First Principles, published between 1860 and 1862, was about "those highest generalisations now being disclosed by science which are severally true not of one class of phenomena but of all classes of phenomena; and which are thus the keys to all classes of phenomena".

In 1864 he published Principles of Biology. In this he defined life as the continuous adjustment of internal to external relations. It consequently emphasised the need to adapt the organism to its environment. The universal process of evolution meant a progression from lower to higher forms, or, its reverse degeneration. The higher is the more complex and differentiated. Spenser argued that the function something serves determines what its structure will be. He also argued that use and disuse would adapt the organ and that this would be passed on. [Summary based on 1911 Encyclopedia]

In 1873 he published The Study of Sociology

1875: The first sociology course in the United States of America used Spencer for its text book

In 1876 [?] he published volume one of his The Principles of Sociology

 

William Thompson (1785-1833) and Anna Wheeler (1785-18??)
Thompson and Wheeler were Irish social scientists, feminists and socialists. In nineteenth century England the principle social sciences were Utilitarianism and Political Economy. Utilitarianism was based on the theory that human beings attempt to maximise pleasure and minimize pain. It was a practical social science that sought to discover what kind of legislation and what kind of social policy would maximize the sum of human happiness and minimize the sum of human pain. Anna Wheeler's ideas inspired
William Thompson to write a
book combining Owen and Bentham's
ideas in an appeal for gender equality.
Click her picture to read extracts from the book
Thompson and Wheeler were utilitarians. They were also Owenite socialists. Owenism was a socialist political economy, developed in opposition to the free-market competition theories of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus. Owenites argued that true self-interest was to seek the common good of all. By weaving together the strands of these two theories, Thompson and Wheeler created one of the earliest socialist feminist theories.
Studying their work will give you good practice in analysing a theory into its component parts.

Anna was born Anna Doyle 1785 in Western Ireland. She married, when 15 (1800?) Francis Massey Wheeler. Left her husband and went to live in Guernsey in August 1806. Left Guernsey for London four years later (1810?). Went to France in late 1816 or early 1817. With a group of socialists in Caen. Returned to Ireland, briefly, on the death of her husband in 1820. In 1823 Anna was in Paris, where she met the then unknown Charles Fourier and gave him considerable encouragement as well as promising him an introduction to Robert Owen. In late 1823 or early 1824, she returned to London, where she became involved in `various reform movements'. In spring 1824 Anna spent time dining with Jeremy Bentham and corresponded with him in letters. Bentham sent her copies of his works: Plan of Parliamentary Reform, Tables of Springs of Action, Truth versus Ashurst and Mother Church. One of Anna Wheeler's daughters was Rosina Wheeler.


 
Edward Burnett Tylor 1832-1917 books - extracts

Edward Tylor believed that the past can be deduced from the present. He thought that the study of "primitive", or uncivilised, societies reveals the origins of all societies. He thought that the study of civilised societies can identify features (survivals) that are clues to older forms of thought in those societies. And he thought that a study of the laws that govern the human mind today, provides a basis for analysing the way that ideas originally started and how they developed.

In the early 1860s Tylor worked on the view of human culture that sees it as a continuous, progressive, development, or evolution. This view, he noted, had been held for thousands of years. Tylor's aim was to develop it into a science.

There were, Tylor believed, scientific laws governing the formation of culture and its development (see quotation). These laws are rooted in the nature of the human mind. To discover how we create language and culture he studied a system of gestures used in the Berlin Deaf-and-Dumb Institute. This language had been developed by the deaf-and-dumb inmates themselves, to communicate when they were brought together in an institution. In Researches into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilisation (1865) he outlined his discoveries and tried to account for the similarities between different cultures and for the origin of culture. (See Chris Holdsworth, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Charles Darwin read the Researches on the recomendation of Joseph Dalton Hooker and was impressed by it. He made several references to it in The Descent of Man - (external source)

In an article on "The Religion of Savages" in 1866, Tylor introduced the term animism to describe beliefs that imagined natural phenomena such as trees as having souls or spirits. Animism, he argued, was the root of religion.

Tylor's main tool for deducing the past from the present was what he termed "survivals". He introduced this concept in an 1869 article "On the Survival of Savage Thought in Modern Civilisation".

Tylor's main publication was the two volume Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art, and Custom. This was published in 1871. Volume one was about the origins of culture, and included Tylor's definition of culture. Volume two was about religion in primitive society. Primitive Culture was not, however, exclusively about pre-historic societies and technologically primitive modern societies. Tylor argued that a knowledge of the origins of culture is necessary to understand all culture and much of his book relates primitive thought to civilised thought. An example of how he theorised is in this comment on poetry:

"In so far as myth ... is the subject of poetry, and in so far as it is couched in language whose characteristic is that wild and rambling metaphor which represents the habitual expression of savage thought, the mental condition of the lower races is the key to poetry" (Tylor, E.B. 1871 pp 532-533)

In 1872 Tylor wrote a review of Adolphe Quetelet's Physique sociale (1869 - originally 1835) and Anthropométrie (1870). Quetelet's statistical and sociological approach influenced Tylor's subsequent writings.

T.S. Baynes, editor of the new Encyclopedia Britannica, reviewed Primitive Culture in January 1872. He asked Tylor to contribute the article on Anthropology. Tylor's six part article, first published in 1875, continued in the Encyclopedia through to the 11th edition (1911), or beyond.

Tylor was active in the Anthropological Society (He may have joined in the early 1860s). See 1874. He became the [first?] President of the society in 1891.

Tylor's Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilisation was published in 1881

On 30.5.1882, Oxford University accepted the donation of a collection of anthropological objects arranged according to the evolution of ideas. This collection had been put together by Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. (external source). In the same year, Tylor was appointed as the new "Keeper of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History". The Pitt Rivers collection was to be housed in an extension to this museum. A condition of the bequest had been that the university appoint a lecturer in anthropology, and Tylor was appointed Reader in Anthropology (required to give 18 lectures a year) in 1883. (external source)

1883? James Frazer's interest in anthropology aroused by reading Primitive Culture

1889-1890 and 1890-1891: Gifford Lectures at Aberdeen. Lectures at Glasgow from 1888 were given by Max Müller - External link to Gifford Lectures website.

Sources include Robert Ranulph Marett DNB 1927 - Chris Holdsworth ODNB 2004

 


Lev Semenovich Vygotsky
Born
1896, died 1934
Soviet psychologist who created the concept zone of proximal development to help theorists think about the relationship between the active learner and the teaching, culture and society that his theory argues is essential to that learning.

See also Shirley Franklin quote from.


 

Click to read
what he said Max Weber
born 1864
died 1920

books

extracts

See Social Science History, chapter six:
Who is the Sociologist?

timeline

Weber is often contrasted with Marx and with Durkheim

Max Weber was a German political economist who became a founder of what we call sociology. However, he was critical of the kind of sociology that treats society as real.

Weber's idea about sociology is that it should be a theory of social action. Action is something that has meaning to the individual who does it. Sociology should start inside the individual with what his or her actions mean to him or her, and work outwards to understanding any laws or regularities that govern the whole of society.

Max Weber created a whole tool-box of concepts for social theorists to use. The tools include his definition of the Modern State. (see dictionary: modern and state)

Weber lived through the period when Germany as one state was being created - when the workers of Paris tried (unsuccessfully) to create a communal society - when a marxist party became the representative of German workers - when Germany fought (and lost) a world war (a war of civilisations) - when marxists set up a worker's state in Russia - and tried (unsuccessfully) to do the same in Germany - and when Germany became a democracy.

Weber's analysis of the modern state involves a quotation from a marxist about the role of force. Weber says that force (coercion) is important but so is authority (which is related to legitimacy).

The modern state is based on a monopoly of legitimate force within a given territory. (see extracts. That is only the state, or those it delegates force to, can lawfully use violence in the area that the state governs. In the past a variety of institutions, starting with the family (sib) could use force. Now all force within a territory is controlled by the state.

It is useful to contrast the modern state, as Weber describes it, with:

  1. The structure of society in the feudal times, which preceded it. In feudal society, power was not concentrated in a central authority. Different "lords" were owed "homage" by "vassals" and a complex network of power existed.

  2. With societies that do not have a fixed territory, such as the tribal organisation of Iroquois Indians (described by Engels), which is based on family relations and can move about.

See if you can find family government, feudal society and the modern state on the Engels chart

Weber argued that government needs to secure the subjective support of the governed: It needs people to think it right that it governs. Power is as much, or more, about ideas as it is about the use of force.

To say a government needs the support of the governed, does not mean that a government needs to be democratic. Weber argued that many different types of idea about the rightness of government could support it. The commonest reason is tradition - People support a government because it is what they are used to. Another legitimating idea is more common nowadays than it was in the past: People support a government because it is rational. Weber's third type is very important to him, because it is something that helps a society change and meet new situations: People support a leader because he or she has charisma

 
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

Wollstonecraft agreed with Rousseau that reason separates human beings from animals. She argued that all our beliefs and morals should be based on reason.

She did not, however, think about reason as something static, something that is just given to us ready made. Reason, she argued, develops in history, and in our personal life, by experiment. We are not tied to what already exists, but can create new realities to test against experience. This means that we have to risk making horrible mistakes in order to develop and learn.

extracts
There is, however, a force that acts against the development of reason. For protection, we adopt
hierarchical structures, with people in authority over us who we agree to obey without question. This hierarchy corrupts our reason, whether we find it in state, church, or family.

If, in reality, women tend to use their reason to flatter men, it is because male dominance has perverted reason. Reason is the same in women and men, and the future well being of human beings depends on all of us exercising our reason to establish rational human relations.

Wollstonecraft, therefore, is developing Plato's argument that reason is the governing virtue, and that it is the same in men and women. Unlike Plato, however, she does not see human passion as a wild, unruly element that reason must repress and govern, but as the inspiration for the experiments that develop reason.

The idea of passion that Wollstonecraft uses appears to include many forces that can drive human beings from within, such as emotions and desires (sex and hunger for example), creative imagination, fantasising, and theorising. I think she also relates it to breaking away from conventional morality - as when her passions drove her to form a sexual relationship outside marriage, and when she chose to openly keep and care for Fanny, the child conceived in this relationship, as a single mother.

 
© Andrew Roberts 2.1994 - 3.2001

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and intext references to "(Roberts, A. 2.1994 entry)". For example: "(Roberts, A. 2.1994 Wollstonecraft)"

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