George Eliot; a Critical Study of Her Life, Writings & Philosophy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 576 pages of information about George Eliot; a Critical Study of Her Life, Writings & Philosophy.
when he said to her, “Well, good-by, you and your molecules,” she replied, “I am quite content with my molecules.”  Her speculations led to the rejection of anything like a positive belief in God, to an entire rejection of faith in a personal immortality, and to a repudiation of all idealistic conceptions of knowledge derived from supersensuous sources.  Her theories are best represented by the words environment, experience, heredity, development, altruism, solidarite, subjective immortality.  These speculations confront the reader in nearly every chapter of her novels, and they gave existence to all but a very few of her poems.



Science was accepted by George Eliot as furnishing the method and the proof for her philosophic and religious opinions.  She was in hearty sympathy with Spencer and Darwin in regard to most of their speculations, and the doctrine of evolution was one which entirely approved itself to her mind.  All her theories were based fundamentally on the hypothesis of universal law, which she probably interpreted with Lewes, in his Foundations of a Creed, as the uniformities of Infinite Activity.  Not only in the physical world did she see law reigning, but also in every phase of the moral and spiritual life of man.  In reviewing Lecky’s Rationalism in Europe, she used these suggestive words concerning the uniformity of sequences she believed to be universal in the fullest sense: 

The supremely important fact that the gradual reduction of all phenomena within the sphere of established law, which carries as a consequence the rejection of the miraculous, and has its determining current in the development of physical science, seems to have engaged comparatively little of his attention; at least he gives it no prominence.  The great conception of uniform regular sequence, without partiality and without caprice—­the conception which is the most potent force at work in the modification of our faith, and of the practical form given to our sentiments—­could only grow out of that patient watching of external fact, and that silencing of preconceived notions, which are urged upon the mind by the problems of physical science. [Footnote:  Fortnightly Review, May, 1865.]

The uniformities of nature have the effect upon man, through his nervous organization, of developing a responsive feeling and action.  He learns to respond to that uniformity, to conform his actions to it.  The habits thus acquired are inherited by his children, and moral conduct is developed.  Heredity has as conspicuous a place in the novels of George Eliot as in the scientific treatises of Charles Darwin.  She has attempted to indicate the moral and social influences of heredity, that it gives us the better part of our life in all directions.  Heredity is but one phase of the uniformity of nature and the persistence of its forces.  That uniformity never

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George Eliot; a Critical Study of Her Life, Writings & Philosophy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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