Edmund Fiske Green
March 30, 1842
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
|July 4, 1901 59) (aged
John Fiske (March 30, 1842 – July 4, 1901) was an American philosopher and historian. He was heavily influenced by Herbert Spencer and applied Spencer's concepts of evolution to his own writings on linguistics, philosophy, religion, and history.
John Fiske was born Edmund Fiske Green at Hartford, Connecticut, March 30, 1842. He was the only child of Edmund Brewster Green, of Smyrna, Delaware, and Mary Fiske Bound, of Middletown, Connecticut. His father was editor of newspapers in Hartford, New York City, and Panama, where he died in 1852, and his widow married Edwin W. Stoughton, of New York, in 1855.On the second marriage of his mother, Edmund Fiske Green assumed the name of his maternal great-grandfather, John Fiske.
As a child, Fiske exhibited remarkable precocity. He lived at Middletown with his grandmother during childhood, and prior to his entering college he had read widely in English literature and history, had excelled in Greek and Latin work, and had studied several modern languages.He then entered Harvard, and graduated from Harvard College in 1863 and from Harvard Law School in 1865. He was admitted to the bar in 1864, but only briefly practiced law. His career as author began in 1861, with an article on "Mr. Buckle's Fallacies" published in the National Quarterly Review. Following his failure to earn enough money through law, he frequently contributed freelance articles to American and British periodicals.
From 1869 to 1871, he was university lecturer on philosophy at Harvard, in 1870 instructor in history there, and assistant librarian 1872–1879. On resigning the latter position in 1879, he was elected a member of the board of overseers, and at the expiration of the six-year term was re-elected in 1885. Beginning in 1881, he lectured annually on American history at Washington University in St. Louis and beginning in 1884 held a professorship of American history at that institution, but continued to make his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He lectured on American history at University College London in 1879, and at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1880. He gave many hundreds of lectures, chiefly upon American history, in the principal cities of the United States and Great Britain.Fiske was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1884.
The largest part of his life was devoted to the study of history, but at an early age inquiries into the nature of human progress led him to a careful study of the doctrine of evolution, and it was through the popularization of Herbert Spencer's work that he first became known to the public.He applied himself to the philosophical interpretation of Darwin's work and produced many books and essays on this subject. His philosophy was influenced by Herbert Spencer's views on evolution. In a letter from Charles Darwin to John Fiske, dated from 1874, the naturalist remarks: "I never in my life read so lucid an expositor (and therefore thinker) as you are."
Nineteenth-century enthusiasm for brain size as a simple measure of human performance, championed by scientists including Darwin's cousin Francis Galton and the French neurologist Paul Broca, led Fiske to believe in the racial superiority of the "Anglo-Saxon race". Fiske's beliefs on race did not preclude his commitment to abolitionist causes. Indeed, so anti-slavery was he that twenty-three years after the cessation of the American Civil War, he declared the North's victory complete "despite the feeble wails" of "unteachable bigots."In his book "The Destiny of Man" (1884), he devotes a whole chapter to the "End of the working of natural selection upon man", describing it as "a fact of unparalleled grandeur." In his view, "the action of natural selection upon Man has [...] been essentially diminished through the operation of social conditions."
In books such as Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy ( ISBN 0-384-15780-7), Fiske aimed to show that "in reality there has never been any conflict between religion and science, nor is any reconciliation called for where harmony has always existed." On page 364, he demonstrates his sensitivity to Christianity as a religion:
We arrive at a deeper reason than has hitherto been disclosed for the difference between our position with reference to Christianity, and that which has been assumed by Radicalism and by positivism. It is not merely that we refuse to attack Christianity because we recognize its necessary adaptation to a certain stage of culture, not yet passed by the average minds of the community; it is that we still regard Christianity as, in the deepest sense, our own religion.
Fiske was a popular lecturer on these topics in his early career, and many of his books from the 1870s were first given to the public in the form of lectures or magazine articles, revised and collected under a general title.Of these, in The Destiny of Man Viewed in the Light of his Origin (1884), he argues that intellectual force is a later, higher and more potent thing than bodily strength, leading to a moral and non-selfish line of thought. This intellect may or must be enduring, or at its best immortal. In The Idea of God as Affected by Modern Knowledge (1885), Fiske discusses the theistic problem, and declares that the mind of man, as developed, becomes an illuminating indication of the mind of God, which as a great immanent cause includes and controls both physical and moral forces.
Later he turned to historical writings, publishing books such as The Discovery of America (1892). In addition, he edited, with James Grant Wilson, Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography (1887). He died, worn out by overwork, at Gloucester, Massachusetts, July 4, 1901.
Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and others, stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Also called Darwinian theory, it originally included the broad concepts of transmutation of species or of evolution which gained general scientific acceptance after Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, including concepts which predated Darwin's theories. English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term Darwinism in April 1860.
Immanuel Hermann Fichte was a German philosopher and son of Johann Gottlieb Fichte. In his philosophy, he was a theist and strongly opposed to the Hegelian School.
Rudolf Hermann Lotze was a German philosopher and logician. He also had a medical degree and was well versed in biology. He argued that if the physical world is governed by mechanical laws and relations, then developments in the universe could be explained as the functioning of a world mind. His medical studies were pioneering works in scientific psychology.
Carl Gustav Adolf von Harnack was a Baltic German Lutheran theologian and prominent Church historian. He produced many religious publications from 1873 to 1912. He was ennobled in 1914.
Herbert Spencer was an English polymath active as a philosopher, psychologist, biologist, sociologist, and anthropologist. Spencer originated the expression "survival of the fittest", which he coined in Principles of Biology (1864) after reading Charles Darwin's 1859 book On the Origin of Species. The term strongly suggests natural selection, yet Spencer saw evolution as extending into realms of sociology and ethics, so he also supported Lamarckism.
St. George Jackson Mivart was an English biologist. He is famous for starting as an ardent believer in natural selection and later becoming one of its fiercest critics. Mivart attempted to reconcile the theory of evolution as propounded by Charles Darwin with the beliefs of the Catholic Church but was condemned by both Darwin and the Church. His belief in a soul created by God and insistence that evolutionism was not incompatible with the existence of such a God brought him into conflict with other evolutionists, while his theological theories on hell and on the compatibility between science and Catholicism led him to clash with the Church.
Frederic William Maitland was an English historian and jurist who is regarded as the modern father of English legal history. From 1884 until his death in 1906, he was reader in English law, then Downing Professor of the Laws of England at the University of Cambridge.
Friedrich Max Müller was a British philologist and Orientalist of German origin. He was one of the founders of the Western academic disciplines of Indian studies and religious studies. Müller wrote both scholarly and popular works on the subject of Indology. The Sacred Books of the East, a 50-volume set of English translations, was prepared under his direction. He also promoted the idea of a Turanian family of languages.
George John Romanes FRS was a Canadian-Scots evolutionary biologist and physiologist who laid the foundation of what he called comparative psychology, postulating a similarity of cognitive processes and mechanisms between humans and other animals.
Josiah Royce was an American Pragmatist and objective idealist philosopher and the founder of American idealism. His philosophical ideas included his joining of pragmatism and idealism, his philosophy of loyalty, and his defense of absolutism.
The Thinker's Library was a series of 140 hardcover books published between 1929 and 1951 for the Rationalist Press Association by Watts & Co., London, a company founded by the brothers John and Charles Watts and then run by the latter's son Charles Albert Watts. The name was suggested by Archibald Robertson, a member of the company's board of directors, who took an active interest in setting up the series and was later to write several volumes himself. The Thinker’s Library was intended as a successor to the cheap paperback “Sixpenny Reprints” from the same publisher, the aim being to bring humanist, philosophical and scientific works to as wide an audience as possible. Unlike the previous series, the volumes in the Thinker’s Library were small hardbacks bound in brown clothette, with grey dustjackets, priced at one shilling. The covers of the early editions featured title, author’s name and a brief description of the book between Doric columns, with the image of Rodin’s The Thinker at the foot. The design would change several times over the course of the series, but the figure of the Thinker remained ever-present.
Francis Bowen was an American philosopher, writer, and educationalist.
Baden Powell, MA FRS FRGS was an English mathematician and Church of England priest. He held the Savilian Chair of Geometry at the University of Oxford from 1827 to 1860. Powell was a prominent liberal theologian who put forward advanced ideas about evolution.
Paul Carus was a German-American author, editor, a student of comparative religion and philosopher.
Chauncey Wright was an American philosopher and mathematician, who was an influential early defender of Darwinism and an important influence on American pragmatists such as Charles Sanders Peirce and William James.
Nathaniel Southgate Shaler was an American paleontologist and geologist who wrote extensively on the theological and scientific implications of the theory of evolution, whose work is now considered scientific racism.
John White Chadwick was an American writer and clergyman of the Unitarian Church.
Samuel Johnson was a United States clergyman and author.
George Edward Ellis was a Unitarian clergyman and historian.
William Samuel Lilly was an English barrister and man of letters.