Reference > Cambridge History > The Victorian Age, Part Two > Philosophers > Huxley
  George Henry Lewes William Kingdon Clifford  

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

I. Philosophers.

§ 22. Huxley.


Thomas Henry Huxley, the distinguished zoölogist and advocate of Darwinism, made many incursions into philosophy, and always with effect. From his youth he had studied its problems unsystematically; he had a way of going straight to the point in any discussion; and, judged by a literary standard, he was a great master of expository and argumentative prose. Apart from his special work in science, he had an important influence upon English thought through his numerous addresses and essays on topics of science, philosophy, religion and politics. Among the most important of his papers relevant here are those entitled “The Physical Basis of Life” (1868), and “On the Hypothesis that Animals are Automata” (1874), along with a monograph on Hume (1879) and the Romanes lecture Ethics and Evolution (1893). Huxley is credited with the invention of the term “agnosticism” to describe his philosophical position: it expresses his attitude towards certain traditional questions without giving any clear delimitation of the frontiers of the knowable. He regards consciousness as a collateral effect of certain physical causes, and only an effect—never, also, a cause. But, on the other hand, he holds that matter is only a symbol, and that all physical phenomena can be analysed into states of consciousness. This leaves mental facts in the peculiar position of being collateral effects of something that, after all, is only a symbol for a mental fact; and the contradiction, or apparent contradiction, is left without remark. His contributions to ethics are still more remarkable. In a paper entitled “Science and Morals” (1888) he concluded that the safety of morality lay “in a real and living belief in that fixed order of nature which sends social disorganisation on the track of immorality.” His Romanes lecture reveals a different tone. In it, the moral order is contrasted with the cosmic order; evolution shows constant struggle; instead of looking to it for moral guidance, he “repudiates the gladiatorial theory of existence.” He saw that the facts of historical process did not constitute validity for moral conduct; and his plain language compelled others to see it also. But he exaggerated the opposition between them and did not leave room for the influence of moral ideas as a factor in the historical process.   53

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  George Henry Lewes William Kingdon Clifford  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors