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The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France
     

The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France

by Jennifer Hecht
 

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ISBN-10: 0231128460

ISBN-13: 9780231128469

Pub. Date: 05/28/2003

Publisher: Columbia University Press

On October 19, 1876 a group of leading French citizens, both men and women included, joined together to form an unusual group, The Society of Mutual Autopsy, with the aim of proving that souls do not exist. The idea was that, after death, they would dissect one another and (hopefully) show a direct relationship between brain shapes and sizes and the character,

Overview

On October 19, 1876 a group of leading French citizens, both men and women included, joined together to form an unusual group, The Society of Mutual Autopsy, with the aim of proving that souls do not exist. The idea was that, after death, they would dissect one another and (hopefully) show a direct relationship between brain shapes and sizes and the character, abilities and intelligence of individuals. This strange scientific pact, and indeed what we have come to think of as anthropology, which the group's members helped to develop, had its genesis in aggressive, evangelical atheism.

With this group as its focus, The End of the Soul is a study of science and atheism in France in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It shows that anthropology grew in the context of an impassioned struggle between the forces of tradition, especially the Catholic faith, and those of a more freethinking modernism, and moreover that it became for many a secular religion. Among the adherents of this new faith discussed here are the novelist Emile Zola, the great statesman Leon Gambetta, the American birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, and Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes embodied the triumph of ratiocination over credulity.

Boldly argued, full of colorful characters and often bizarre battles over science and faith, this book represents a major contribution to the history of science and European intellectual history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231128469
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
05/28/2003
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.35(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsix
Acknowledgmentsxi
Introduction: The End of the Soul1
1.The Society of Mutual Autopsy and the Liturgy of Death6
2.Evangelical Atheism and the Rise of French Anthropology41
3.Sentific Materialism and the Public Response91
4.Careers in Anthropology and the Bertillon Family135
5.No Soul, No Morality: Vacher de Lapouge168
6.Body and Soul: Leonce Manouvrier and the Disappearing Numbers211
7.The Leftist Critique of Determinist Science257
8.Coda296
Conclusion306
Notes319
Bibliography366
Index387

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