Essays On Science And Culture ..

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For Tylor, Anthropology was a “science of culture,” a system for analyzing existing elements of human civilization that are socially created rather than biologically inherited. His work was critical to the recognition of anthropology as a distinct branch of science in 1884, when the British Association for the Advancement of Science admitted it as a major branch, or section, of the society, rather than a subset of biology, as had previously been the case. Tyler was the first president of the section, and in 1896 became Professor of Anthropology at Oxford, the first academic chair in the new discipline (Stocking, Victorian Anthropology 156-64).


Science in Human Culture Program - Northwestern …

Beyond the finite: the sublime in art and science does one better, compiling four essays …

Edward B. Tylor’s Primitive Culture articulates one of two major theories of culture to emerge around 1870. His theory defines culture in descriptive terms as the “complex whole” that makes up social ideas and institutions, and in this it helped to establish anthropology as a recognized science. Tylor’s ideas were closely related to those published about the same time by Matthew Arnold, who defined culture as a humanist ideal that society should strive for.


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The biology of evolution was explained by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species (1859), and he expanded his finding to include human evolution in The Descent of Man (1871), which was published the same year as Primitive Culture. While Darwin concentrated on biology, Tylor focused solely on the evolution of human culture. In this, he participated in a lengthy philosophical tradition explaining human development from its beginning to the present day. This speculative practice extends back to classical antiquity. In De Rerum Natura (The Way Things Are), recounting the even earlier ideas of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BCE), the Roman poet Lucretius (99-55 BCE) told the dramatic story of a turbulent primal earth that generated all forms of life, including giant humans, who would slowly come together to create social groupings. Lucretius was particularly concerned with the development of beliefs about supernatural beings, which he viewed as anthropomorphic attempts to explain the natural world. In medieval Europe, Lucretius’s ideas were largely forgotten in favor of the Christian account of human origins in Genesis. But by the eighteenth century, philosophers proposed new, secular accounts that minimized the story of Genesis. In Scienza nuova (1744; The New Science), the Italian Giambattista Vico (1688-1744) proposed a theory of human origins that incorporated many of Lucretius’s ideas, including the gigantic stature of early man, and he reiterated the anthropomorphic explanation for the rise in beliefs about gods. Indeed, the first of Vico’s 141 axioms explains the importance of human self-projection as a means of explaining the world around them: “By its nature, the human mind is indeterminate; hence, when man is sunk in ignorance, he makes himself the measure of the universe” (75).

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While a foundational figure in cultural anthropology, Tylor thought about culture in radically different terms than we do today. He accepted the premise that all societies develop in the same way and insisted on the universal progression of human civilization from savage to barbarian to civilized. Nowhere in his writing does the plural “cultures” appear. In his view, culture is synonymous with civilization, rather than something particular to unique societies, and, so, his definition refers to “Culture or civilization.” In part, his universalist view stemmed from his Quaker upbringing, which upheld the value of a universal humanity, and indeed Tylor’s refusal to accept the concept of race as scientifically significant in the study of culture was unusual in Victorian science.