Sunday, May 10, 2009

10 Harriet Martineau

Illustrations of Political Economy (1832) was a great success and brought her financial independence. This book was followed by another bestseller, Poor Laws and Paupers Illustrated (1834).

Yes, it was possible in the UK: a female writer publishing a bestseller. Harriet Martineau was a brilliant mind and till this day I never have heard of her. And yet she was there and made a difference. She was a great thinker.

In 1829, only 27 years old, she wrote: "I have determined that my chief subordinate object in life shall henceforth be the cultivation of my intellectual powers, with a view to the instruction of others by my writings.

On this determination I pray for the blessing of God...I believe myself possessed of no uncommon talents, and of not an atom of genius; but as various circumstances have allowed me to think more accurately than some women,

I believe that I may so write on subjects of universal concern as to inform some minds and stir up others...of posthumous fame I have not the slightest expectation or desire. To be useful in my day and generation is enough for me."

And so she did. Mary Wollstonecraft found a home among the Dissenters. Harriet was a child of Dissienters and because of that educated in the same subjects as her brother.

No matter where you look, you see her described as a woman who was a journalist, a novelist, a writer on economics and sociological subject. Hardly any reference to her philosophical ideas.

Even a page that shows up in Google as "Harriet Martineau: biography and bibliography" doesnt mention it nor mentions her book "Letters on the Laws of Man's Nature and Development" (1851).

I only found one reference to her philosophical ideas and then still only this: "Harriet Martineau moved to the Lake District in 1845 where she built herself a house near Ambleside. Her next major publication was The History of the Peace (1849) a history of England between 1816 and 1846.

This was followed by Letters on the Laws of Man's Nature and Development (1851). The book created a sensation as it was a complete rejection of religious belief.

The publication of the book ended her friendship with her brother, James Martineau, who was now a leading figure in the Unitarian Church."

When you want to learn about the philosophical ideas of Harriet Martineau you should not do a Google search on her name, but on the name of a MAN(!): Henry George Atkinson. The very first hit leads you to the digitalized book by Google: a copy from the Library of the University of Wisconsin, May 10, 1923.

This Henry George Atkinson (1812 -1884) seems the have written nothing seperately and published. Who he was I found in a note on page 307 of the Autobiography of Harriet Martineau, edited by Linda H. Peterson.

There he is qualified as a mesmerist, phrenologist, and amateur philosopher. Somewhere else I saw a reference to him as a physician, too. But his ideas attracted Harriet very much. I wonder where she got the info from, to say it in a modern way.

What ended the friendship with her brother? The identity theory, according to which the mind and the brain are one thing, though experienced in different ways. Atkinson spoke of the mind as the 'appearance' or 'phenomenon' of the brain.

In one of his letters he wrote: " There are not two philosophies, one for the Mind and the other for Matter. Nature is one, and to bestudied as a whole."

Again, he wrote: "Men has sought out a philosophy of mind, by studying effects apart from causes, and have even asserted that the mind was entirely seperate from the body,

and having some unintelligible rules of its own called free will, not subject to law or dependent on material conditions."

After a start as a religious woman, writing books on that subject, she became a philosophical materialist, only believing in the hard data of reality.

The Discussion

[13:23] herman Bergson: So much on Harriet Martineau
[13:23] Paula Dix: nice
[13:23] Ze Novikov: Herman was she a Dissenter?
[13:23] herman Bergson: If you have a question or remarks..feel free...
[13:24] herman Bergson: Oh yes Unitarian
[13:24] Ze Novikov: remarkable thread here for Dissenter women
[13:24] Alarice Beaumont: she played a leading role in women movement, didn't she?
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: man's nature and development.. anything you can say about what she wrote and her conclusions,herman?
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: i read some of her articles on her trip to the united states
[13:24] Elia Scribe: Is a philosophical materialist the same as an empiricist?
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: and could see her philosophy there
[13:25] herman Bergson: ok..hold on...
[13:25] Corona Anatine: no they argee not
[13:25] herman Bergson: First of all Hope..I just met her give me some time to find out what her conclusions were ^_^
[13:26] Elia Scribe: What's the difference Corona?
[13:26] herman Bergson: a philosophical materialist in by definition almost an empiricist too
[13:26] Khayyam Kurosawa: its the opposite
[13:26] Khayyam Kurosawa: in a way
[13:26] Corona Anatine: one can inlcude a deity in the frame
[13:26] Corona Anatine: the other prob not
[13:27] Paula Dix: which can have the god??
[13:27] Corona Anatine: empircist
[13:27] Paula Dix: ok
[13:27] Paula Dix: so im the other :)
[13:27] Corona Anatine: tho the distinction is subtle
[13:27] Elia Scribe: Atheism the opposite of empiricism?
[13:27] herman Bergson: sorry I missed something..
[13:28] herman Bergson: what distinction are we discussing here?
[13:28] Corona Anatine: because the greater the philisophical study the further 'god' recedes
[13:28] Elia Scribe: Philosophical materialism versus empricism.
[13:28] herman Bergson: that isnt a versus
[13:28] herman Bergson: materialism can be seen as a subclass of empiricism
[13:28] Elia Scribe: Any distinction in these two Herman?
[13:29] Khayyam Kurosawa: i think they are almost opposites
[13:29] Khayyam Kurosawa: emprism is like idealism
[13:29] Khayyam Kurosawa: which is opposite from materialism
[13:29] herman Bergson: In many of our former lectures we have seen that empiricists also can be idealists to begin with Berkley
[13:29] Khayyam Kurosawa: yes
[13:30] Corona Anatine: that figures
[13:30] herman Bergson: so materialism and idealism are both subspecies of empiricism
[13:30] Paula Dix: thats because empiricism derives from experience, so also from subjective experiences??
[13:30] herman Bergson: only from subjective experience..
[13:31] Paula Dix: ok
[13:31] Corona Anatine: yes but the experience is shaped by the world view
[13:31] herman Bergson: it is only how this subjective experience is interpreted in the sense that it contains consensus with other men
[13:31] Corona Anatine: the perception of reality will change the model of reality perv ceived
[13:31] Khayyam Kurosawa: which materialism doesnt
[13:31] Khayyam Kurosawa: or does it?
[13:32] herman Bergson: no is the other way around..
[13:32] Paula Dix: and materialism is then connnected to science?
[13:32] herman Bergson: the model of reality we have shapes our experience
[13:32] Corona Anatine: the two mutualy feedback
[13:33] herman Bergson: materialism is the conviction that there is only matter...all mental statements we use are in some way a metaphor for material statements
[13:34] Corona Anatine: then materialism is wrong cos it ignores energy
[13:34] Paula Dix: ok... so both can have or not connection to science
[13:34] Elia Scribe: So mind is an expression of matter?
[13:34] Paula Dix: energy is matter
[13:34] Paula Dix: and vice-versa
[13:34] Corona Anatine: no
[13:34] Paula Dix: so you refute Einstein?? :)
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes Elia you could say that...
[13:34] Corona Anatine: energy is not matter even tho matter is energy
[13:34] Elia Scribe: Yes, energy and matter are interchangeable Corona.
[13:35] Corona Anatine: matter is a crystal form of energy
[13:35] herman Bergson: Hold on....
[13:35] herman Bergson: we arent discussing Einstein here
[13:35] Corona Anatine: ok
[13:35] Corona Anatine: getting off track
[13:35] herman Bergson: we are discussling Harriet Martineau here
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:35] Paula Dix: ok, i do think mind is a result of matter, since its a product of brain, which is matter
[13:35] herman Bergson: A woman who shows that the identity thesis was alredy alive in her time
[13:36] herman Bergson: It is 1851 and there is materialism as a philosophy
[13:36] herman Bergson: There is the refutation of religion
[13:36] Corona Anatine: ( there are theories which have it the brain has a quantum element )
[13:36] Elia Scribe: You mentioned some issues of free will in her work, or rejection of religion. Can you ellaborate Herman?
[13:37] Corona Anatine: yes pealse do
[13:37] Elia Scribe: Free will and the quantum element Corona?
[13:37] herman Bergson: In 1850 they didnt talk about quantum stuff...that is anachronistic
[13:37] Corona Anatine: free will
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: i think you should get some history books and find out what people thought and could have thought beginning of 19th century.. and then you realize what a great new thinking was going on..
[13:37] Corona Anatine: i was replying to paula's statement
[13:37] herman Bergson: Exactly Hope..thanks for the support
[13:38] herman Bergson: This woman was a great and audacious thinker
[13:38] herman Bergson: in a world where Darwin had emerged
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: she certainly was a good friend to him
[13:38] herman Bergson: who brought mankind back to a part of nature
[13:38] Elia Scribe: But free will, Herman? What was her thinking about free will in the context of Materialism?
[13:39] herman Bergson: Which means combined with materialism a devastating blow to religion...that was what was happening in those days
[13:39] herman Bergson: Free will and materialism is a tricky story...starts already with Spinoza
[13:40] Khayyam Kurosawa: tyes yes...i know.... i,m a cloud...go for it
[13:40] herman Bergson: When matter is controlled by the causality of natural laws and man is only matter there cant exist real free will
[13:40] herman Bergson: that is a serious debate in materialism
[13:41] herman Bergson: logically you are forced to accept that everything is causaly determined even tho we have anidea of fre wil
[13:41] Corona Anatine: how you free will be determined ?
[13:42] Elia Scribe: So did she, as a materialist, reject free will?
[13:42] Corona Anatine: would *
[13:42] herman Bergson: No will isnt determined. man is determind but has the mistaken idea of free will
[13:42] Corona Anatine: indeed
[13:42] Qwark Allen: it`s a mith
[13:42] Corona Anatine: of course
[13:43] Paula Dix: herman thats interesting... i guess im a materialist since i think our free will is limited by the capacity of our brains
[13:43] herman Bergson: This free will issue related to materialism is a very complicated discussion..I havent all answers here for you
[13:43] Qwark Allen: not only by brain
[13:43] Corona Anatine: even that is suspect
[13:43] Elia Scribe: There is only, then, the will of natural law to a meterialist, the will of God to the religious?
[13:43] Corona Anatine: there was a peice of research in new scientist
[13:43] Corona Anatine: a few years back
[13:44] herman Bergson: Natural law has no will ..natural law just is..
[13:44] herman Bergson: like a stone just is...exists
[13:44] Corona Anatine: criminals who were given a change of diet had a totally personality change
[13:44] Corona Anatine: no free will there
[13:44] Qwark Allen: now you are getting there
[13:45] Elia Scribe: Will as a metaphor of natural law then.
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes is well known that kids with ADHD change behavior completely when given another diet
[13:45] Paula Dix: yes corona, also people with mental diseases... in that sense, we all have this kind of chemical limitations
[13:45] herman Bergson: We all know our behavior chages when we consume chemicals..^_^
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: these are physical defects, not mental
[13:45] Qwark Allen: more important then the brain and it`s limitations, is where that brain live
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: consume chemicals-- or
[13:46] Daruma Boa: yo^^
[13:46] herman Bergson: That makes me think of descartes Qwark
[13:46] Corona Anatine: mental is a derivation of physical
[13:46] herman Bergson: and objections to his dualism
[13:46] Khayyam Kurosawa: eeeh herman.....what magic do you have in your class that i look like a fucked up bird
[13:46] herman Bergson: they asked then too..if the mind isnt spatial how can it be somewhere
[13:46] Khayyam Kurosawa: i cant sit normally
[13:46] Corona Anatine: the perch
[13:47] Corona Anatine: get off the perch which is for bird avis
[13:47] Qwark Allen: cause you are sit in birds place
[13:47] Paula Dix: i see the mind as being the entire body
[13:47] herman Bergson: the magic that you cant read the sign
[13:47] Khayyam Kurosawa: i keep getting drawn back to it
[13:47] Qwark Allen: :-)
[13:47] Daruma Boa: he can sit as he wants to^^
[13:47] Khayyam Kurosawa: freaky class
[13:47] Khayyam Kurosawa: spooky
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: i know i had that problem lol
[13:47] Corona Anatine: he wished to remove the bird look
[13:48] herman Bergson: Ok....
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: i could not sit unless i got really close to the red sit on teh bench
[13:48] Corona Anatine: then you must learn to perv cam
[13:48] herman Bergson: me it was a sensation to discover this lady and her role in history
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: oh my dear i know how to use the cam
[13:48] Corona Anatine: yes she does sound ahead of her day
[13:48] Khayyam Kurosawa: haha
[13:48] herman Bergson: And it was a consolation to see how much now is available on the Internet about her
[13:49] Paula Dix: very interesting woman, yes
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: she was
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: i will read more of her time in the USA'
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: veyr interesting
[13:49] herman Bergson: I have told you only of one single aspect of her which is ommitted in almost everything i have read
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: did she have any contact with some thinkers, scientists of her time?
[13:49] Alarice Beaumont: do you have a link for me gemma? I did not find to much about her
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: oh i will find it and send
[13:49] Alarice Beaumont: :-)) thx
[13:50] herman Bergson: I dont think so Hope...there is no mentioning of that
[13:50] Paula Dix: good I also want, Gemma :))
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: ahha
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: i beter get it now
[13:50] herman Bergson: She only had that correspondence with Atkinson
[13:50] Paula Dix: hahaha
[13:51] herman Bergson: But her book publishing this correspondence is here...on the Net digitalized by Google
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: this will give you plenty!!! also
[13:51] herman Bergson: SHe did a lot for woma emancipation....check her out
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: very much so
[13:52] Corona Anatine: but true free will would not exist unless you had godlike powers to enable you to do anything you wanted
[13:52] Alarice Beaumont: ah she did.. ok
[13:52] herman Bergson: She really can be called one of the first real feminists
[13:52] Paula Dix: Great Gemma!!
[13:52] Paula Dix: yes good point Corona
[13:52] herman Bergson: I think I saw that URL Gemma, yes
[13:53] Alarice Beaumont: gosh Gemma..thx.. that 's alot information!
[13:53] Daruma Boa: hoe to male home unhealthy^^
[13:53] Daruma Boa: haha
[13:53] Daruma Boa: make home , sorry
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: yes it is
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: it is really interesting
[13:54] Daruma Boa: rod, i think u live in another time dimension^^

[13:54] Corona Anatine: saving to favourites for later reading
[13:54] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: he works hard
[13:54] herman Bergson: I think I have presented you a woman thinker who is at the doorstep of our time, preparing the way for those to follow
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: natural law exists, you have the free will to obey or disobey
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: Hi Dar
[13:55] Elia Scribe: What do you mean Ari?
[13:55] herman Bergson: So it is up to you to do further research on her and evaluate her as a woman in her time
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: disobey a natural law? like gravity for exampleari? with free will?
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: I f you do not use reasonable prudence in navigating natural law, naturl law will 'smite' you
[13:56] Corona Anatine: you can for a brief momnet
[13:56] herman Bergson: I thank you for your participation today and you are free to discuss free will after I dismiss class...^_^
[13:56] Corona Anatine: defy gravity that is
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:56] Ze Novikov: Thank you Herman...
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: if you try to occupy another object at the same time, naure will provide empirical data for you
[13:56] Corona Anatine: thsnks herman
[13:56] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[1[13:57] Alarice Beaumont: hahaha
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:57] Alarice Beaumont: thanks herman :-)
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: ah well

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-12-22 20:21:02

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