The Crisis of Reason: European Thought, 1848-1914

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Overview

This elegantly written book explores the history of ideas in Europe from the revolutions of 1848 to the beginning of the First World War. Broader than a straight survey, deeper and richer than a textbook, this work seeks to place the reader in the position of an informed eavesdropper on the intellectual conversations of the past.

J. W. Burrow first outlines the intellectual context of the mid-nineteenth century, using ideas taken from physics, social evolution, and social Darwinism, and anxieties about modernity and personal identity, to explore the impact of science and social thought on European intellectual life. The discussion encompasses powerful and fashionable concepts in evolution, art, myth, the occult, and the unconscious mind; the rise of the great cities of Berlin, Paris, and London; and the work of literary writers, philosophers, and composers. Most of the great intellectual figures of the age—and many of the lesser known—populate the book, among them Mill, Bakunin, Nietzsche, Bergson, Renan, Pater, Proust, Clough, Flaubert, Wagner, and Wilde. The author wears his erudition lightly, and this distinguished book will be both entertaining and accessible to scholars, students, and general readers alike.

About the Author:
J. W. Burrow is professor of European thought at Oxford University and fellow of Balliol College. Among his previous books are Evolution and Society, A Liberal Descent, and Gibbon.

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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Preface x
Acknowledgements xvi
Prologue: 1848-49: The Disillusionment of the Intellectuals 1
1 The Stuff of the World and the Promises of Science 31
1.1 The New Generation 31
1.2 The Conservation of Matter and Energy; Materialist Reductionism 34
1.3 The Enigma of Consciousness and the Impact of Evolution 42
1.4 The Claims of Science: Science as Vocation 52
1.5 The Reaction against Materialism: Phenomenalism, Pragmatism and Pan-psychism 56
2 Social Evolution and the Sciences of Culture 68
2.1 A Classified World 68
2.2 Social Evolution as the Division of Labour 72
2.3 Sciences of Religion and Culture: France, Britain, Germany 77
2.4 Social Darwinism, Eugenics and Race 92
3 Community and Modernity 109
3.1 The Market and Modernity 109
3.2 Community: The Mark, the Mir and the Guild 113
3.3 The Ethical State 124
3.4 Nation and State in Germany 132
3.5 Nationalism and the Critique of Modernity: Myth and Charisma 136
4 The Elusive Self 147
4.1 The Burden of Freedom 147
4.2 'Character' 152
4.3 The Flux of Experience 160
4.4 The Unconscious 164
5 Constructing the Self 170
5.1 Work of Art and Microcosm 170
5.2 'Decadence' and 'Life' 181
5.3 The Calling and the Deed 190
6 Immanence, Revelation and Transcendence 197
6.1 Incarnation 197
6.2 Myth and Revelation 208
6.3 The Occult 219
Epilogue: Avant-garde 234
Select Bibliography 254
Index 264
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