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The Invention of Altruism – Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain - British Academy Scholarship Online
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The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain

Thomas Dixon


‘Altruism’ was coined by the French sociologist Auguste Comte in the early 1850s as a theoretical term in his ‘cerebral theory’ and as the central ideal of his atheistic ‘Religion of Humanity’. This book traces this new language of ‘altruism’ as it spread through British culture between the 1850s and the 1900s, and in doing so provides a portrait of Victorian moral thought. Drawing attention to the importance of Comtean positivism in setting the agenda for debates about science and religion, this volume challenges received ideas about both Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer as moral philosophe ... More

Keywords: altruism, Auguste Comte, cerebral theory, Religion of Humanity, British culture, Victorian morality, Comtean positivism, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2008 Print ISBN-13: 9780197264263
Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012 DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197264263.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Thomas Dixon, author
Senior Lecturer in History, Queen Mary, University of London