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
     
 

ISBN-10: 0231128479

ISBN-13: 9780231128476

Pub. Date: 12/13/2005

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,

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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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231128476
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
12/13/2005
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
950,553
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: The End of the Soul1. The Society of Mutual Autopsy and the Liturgy of Death2. Evangelical Atheism and the Rise of French Anthropology3. Scientific Materialism and the Public Response4. Careers in Anthropology and the Bertillon Family5. No Soul, No Morality: Vacher de Lapouge6. Body and Soul: LÇonce Manouvrier and the Disappearing Numbers7. The Leftist Critique of Determinist Science8. CodaConclusionNotes Bibliography Index

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