ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on July 19, 2011
Ludwig Buchner
Ludwig Buchner
Ernst Haeckel
Ernst Haeckel


Nineteenth century Europe witnessed great advances in Science. In physics the contributions of Helmholtz, Carnot, Faraday, Maxwell, Roentgen, Curie and many others revolutionized the subject. Progress was no less in other areas too. In Mathematics, Lobachevski and Riemann introduced non-Euclidean geometry and in Chemistry the researches of Dalton and Avogadro brought about tectonic changes in these subjects. Biology too was not lagging behind. The contributions of Schwann, Hugo von Mohl, Pasteur and Koch were also substantial.

Prior to Kant philosophers based their system on physical sciences. However Hegel and Hegelians starting from a priori philosophy constructed a theory of nature that was exotic. Even Goethe who had made contributions to plant and animal physiology believed Newton’s theory of white light was wrong.

Scientists however began to uncritically accept the structure of nature built by science as the ultimate reality. There were however some like Boole, Jevons, Clifford, Spencer and Mach who studied the philosophy of science, and whose contributions though great, were not fully appreciated then. Clifford for example suggested that philosophers should be acquainted with mathematical theories, something which was later reiterated by Russell.

Mach particularly revived the teachings of philosophers from Locke to Kant and tried to point out that science does not build a model of nature purely on the basis of what our senses tell it is. Discoveries in science helped in reinforcing the view that matter is the ultimate reality. Some of Anton Lavoisier’s discoveries like conservation of mass were used as proof to buttress this argument.


The growing dominance of science resulted in a spiritual reaction particularly in England. The Oxford movement was an example of this. Cardinal Newman derived satisfaction in the certainty and tradition of the middle ages and his clarion call was ‘back to unity, back to tradition, back to mother church’. T.H. Green was another prominent member of the idealistic movement in English philosophy, but F.H.Bradley was probably the foremost among them. In France too the idealist movement took roots. Ravaisson, Boutraoux, Renouvier and Lachelier were protagonists of idealism. Though Poincare’s contributions were in the area of mathematics, his ideas in the philosophy of science were equally noteworthy. He believed that no conclusions are absolute and no scientific law is to be accepted dogmatically. So much so that he held the view since mathematics has no absolute validity, it cannot give us absolute certainty. Science he maintained is not merely based on reason or intuition or experimentation but also relies on all these methods in its explanation of phenomena.


This resulted in the revival of materialistic ideas in metaphysical Germany. Ludwig Buchner was a physician, physiologist and philosopher. In his book ‘Kraft & Stoff’ he expounded materialism andthis helped in gaining adherents to philosophic theory of mechanism and determinism. It was Buchner who founded the German Freethinker’s League ("Deutsche Freidenkerbund") and he has been dubbed as the father of atheistic evangelism in Germany.

Excepting in Germany, materialistic ideas in Europe was thwarted by ecclesiastical conservatism. In Germany however the spread of materialistic ideas was facilitated by the emergence of Marxism. Germany was also influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution which was accepted and popularized by biologists like Haeckel. Ernst Haeckel was a versatile person. He was a naturalist, biologist, physician, philosopher and artist. The scientific theory of natural selection soon got incorporated in the political theory of communism.

It was only in the twentieth century that materialism got state patronage with the emergence of USSR and other communist states, but its philosophical foundations were laid in the nineteenth century.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)