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Title: The importance of the idea of knowledge in the development of cultural criticism in the 19th century, with particular reference to Carlyle, Ruskin and Arnold
Author: Taylor, Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 2700 7595
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 1986
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This thesis is intended to clarify the ways in which the works of three Victorian critics - Carlyle, Ruskin and Arnold - can be seen as responses to the new importance that Victorian society attached to the idea of knowledge. In particular, their society was keen to have a scientific knowledge by which to govern itself, and the rise of the social sciences in the early nineteenth century is an obvious manifestation of this desire. Moreover, the increasing demands for universal education throughout the century reflected a belief that this knowledge should be disseminated as widely as possible and that men should and could be left to act freely in the light of the rational self-knowledge derived from this education. This is partly a political argument, proposing a new source of authority, and Victorian arguments for democracy are often linked to arguments for universal ( education. But the central impetus behind these political and pedagogic demands comes from the utilitarian moral philosophy of Bentham and his followers, which presupposed the possibility of an absolute, impartial and neutral assessment of states of affairs. The works of the Victorian critics are best understood as attempts to articulate and to rectify the shortcomings of this utilitarian idea of knowledge, above all its characteristic inability to accommodate the moral and ethical considerations, the values and ideals, that are part of a culture's identity. carlyle's critique of self-consciousness and Ruskin's attack on neo-classical economics are dramatic and vital responses to these shortcomings, but are themselves limited by the autocratic idea of moral knowledge implicit in them. Arnold's conception of science, and his emphasis on the impersonal and collective process of criticism, represent a more persuasive and more authoritative exposition of the deficiencies of utilitarian knowledge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available