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

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

byJennifer Hecht

Kobo ebook | December 20, 2005

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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.

Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of Doubt: A History and two award-winning books of poetry, The Next Ancient World and Funny. She is a contributor to The New York Times and The Washington Post and is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities.
Title:The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in FranceFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:December 20, 2005Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231502389

ISBN - 13:9780231502382

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The End of the Soul
1. The Society of Mutual Autopsy and the Liturgy of Death
2. Evangelical Atheism and the Rise of French Anthropology
3. Scientific Materialism and the Public Response
4. Careers in Anthropology and the Bertillon Family
5. No Soul, No Morality: Vacher de Lapouge
6. Body and Soul: LÇonce Manouvrier and the Disappearing Numbers
7. The Leftist Critique of Determinist Science
8. Coda

Editorial Reviews

The surprising story of how a zealous group of atheists created the science of anthropology

A wonderful book.... In addition to being a first-rate monograph--a significant contribution to nineteenth-century French studies--it is also a delightful read and a page-turner.