Thesis ID: CBB001561319

Ernst Haeckel and the Redemption of Nature (2008)


Heie, Nolan (Author)

Queen's University (Canada)

Publication Date: 2008
Physical Details: 412 pp.
Language: English

A respected marine biologist at the University of Jena, Ernst Haeckel (1834- 1919) was the most visible proponent of Darwin's theory of evolution in Germany around the turn of the twentieth century. Alongside his natural-scientific research activities, he attempted to popularise a philosophy that he dubbed 'Monism'--which consisted essentially of mid-nineteenth-century mechanistic materialism permeated with elements derived from early-nineteenth-century German Romantic pantheism--and to use this outlook as the basis for a worldwide anticlerical movement. His popular science books were an outstanding success, selling hundreds of thousands of copies throughout the world, but his organisation attracted far fewer adherents. By examining Haeckel's popular science writings and contemporary reactions to them, especially among lesser- known contemporaries who have received relatively little attention in previous studies, this thesis explores the subjective appeal of Haeckel's monistic philosophy. Specifically, it investigates the way in which he employed metaphors and visual images to communicate scientific and philosophical concepts, and in so doing seemed to provide his readers with what they had feared lost along with the decline of orthodox religious belief: a feeling of greater purpose, a foundation for ethical behaviour, an appreciation of beauty in the world, and a stable sense of identity. The imagery and metaphors that he employed were open to multiple interpretations, and others saw in them an expression of the destructive modern forces that threatened to bring about social collapse. Paradoxically, the same devices that accounted for Haeckel's appeal as a popular science writer contributed to the incoherence and fragmentation of his Monism movement.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 69/03 (2008). Pub. no. AAT NR37075.

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Authors & Contributors
Zigman, Peter M.
Goschler, Constantin
Kleeberg, Bernhard
Bohunikas, Lenka
Bonk, Sigmund
Brömer, Rainer
Science in Context
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Biology and Philosophy
Franz Steiner Verlag
Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung
Böhlau Verlag
Palgrave Macmillan
Philosophy of science
Haeckel, Ernst
Mach, Ernst
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre
Ostwald, Wilhelm
Forel, August Henri
Carus, Paul
Czech Republic
Berlin (Germany)
Vienna (Austria)
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
Theosophical Society

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