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Victorian Scientific NaturalismCommunity, Identity, Continuity$
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Bernard Lightman and Gowan Dawson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226109503

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226109640.001.0001

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Evolutionary Naturalism on High: The Victorians Sequester the Alps

Evolutionary Naturalism on High: The Victorians Sequester the Alps

(p.55) 2 Evolutionary Naturalism on High: The Victorians Sequester the Alps
Victorian Scientific Naturalism

Michael S. Reidy

University of Chicago Press

A disproportionately large percentage of the most prominent evolutionary naturalists, and almost every member of the X-Club, traveled and climbed in the Swiss Alps. John Tyndall and Leslie Stephen, in particular, were simultaneously the most vocal of the evolutionary naturalists and the two most accomplished alpinists of their age. The height of their climbing came in the early 1860s, the same years in which they formulated their agnosticism. This paper will examine their journals and letters to uncover the role that mountaineering played as they formulated and defended a naturalistic framework. The questions the mountains forced them to ask, whether through beauty or desolation, order or chaos (what William Clifford termed “cosmic emotion”) helped influence their common project of formulating an ethic based on nature rather than God.

Keywords:   John Tyndall, Leslie Stephen, Mountaineering, Alps, Agnosticism, X-Club, Switzerland, evolutionary naturalism, William Clifford, Climbing

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