During the Victorian age there was increasing disagreement on what Man (the traditional term for the human species) was made of. The traditional view was that Man was created in God's image as described in Genesis. Most would agree that Man consisted of a body and a mind and/or a soul. Almost without exception every account attributed to Man a special, unique, and untouchable value compared to all other living things. Some still envisioned a great chain of being stretching from simple monads to Man the crowning achievement of all nature. Man was generally held to be utterly unrelated to all other organisms until Charles Darwin (Descent of Man, 1871) began to stress the undeniable similarities between Man and other animals so that the difference might be considered one of degree rather than a difference of kind. However, we should not assume that there was an inexorable shift from traditional Christian descriptions of Man to secular scientific descriptions as the century progressed. Such an oversimplistic view is contradicted by the large evangelical and other religious movements in Victorian times. Instead there was a change from fewer to more diverse, often competing, definitions of Man during the century.

What did gradually increase were attempts to study Man in ways similar to the natural subjects. These included physiological and anatomical studies of the human body, and several sciences of mind.

General

Of related interest

Classics in the History of Psychology. (Canadian site)

Morton, Peter, The vital science: biology and the literary imagination, 1860-1900. London & Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1984.


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Last modified 28 September 2002