19th Century Thinkers

I.  Comte (19th century French philosopher)

    Thought mankind was making progress in the area of religion.  (We had moved through stages of animism, polytheism and monotheism and were now moving into the positive stage where we would believe in no gods at all.)  Comte  influenced subsequent society through sociology and (indirectly) because of his influence on John Dewey.

     Auguste Comte Links
     A Comte prayer in honor of mankind (see bottom of page)
     A summary of Comte's contributions
     Annotated Comte links (See especially this Comte chronology.)
     A fairly good summary of Dewey' life and influence (sympathetic to Dewey)
     An amusing criticism of Dewey from the left.
II.  Hegel

    Believed mankind was making progress in the realm of ideas through a process he called the dialectic (thesis vs. antithesis leads to synthesis).  These ideas according to Hegel the driving force of all history.  Influenced greatly both Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche.

III.  Darwin

    Believed all species were making progress through natural selection.  This a  fundamental principle of modern biology, but also lead to problems. Because of the way these ideas were spread (through Huxley and Haekel) Darwin's ideas tended to undercut religion.  They also were used to justify racism, imperialism, cut-throat captitalism, a laissez-faire social policy, and even genocide.

IV.  Nietzsche

    Nietzche combined the ideas of Darwin and Hegel, pointing to progress throught the emergence of a superman who would be superior to the rest of us in that he would abandon traditional moral standards and substitute the "will to power."

V.  Marx and Engels

    Combined Hegelian and Darwinian ideas in a different way.  Developed "dialectical materialism," explaining human history as the result of class struggle.

VII.  Romantics

    The artists and writers of the romantic movement believed in progress through the release and expression of emotion.  (See not-yet-edited notes).


 Raft of the Medusa (Gericault)
 Liberty Leading the People (Delacroix)

VIII.  Realists

    The Realists believed in progress through enlightened self interest.  (See not-yet-edited notes).

IX.  Dostoyevsky

    (See not-yet-edited notes)
    It's interesting to note how many of the writers I discuss in this part of the class get their works listed among the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.