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Artful ExperimentsWays of Knowing in Victorian Literature and Science$
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Philipp Erchinger

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474438957

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474438957.001.0001

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Learning by Experiment: T. H. Huxley and the Aesthetic Nature of Education

Learning by Experiment: T. H. Huxley and the Aesthetic Nature of Education

(p.47) Chapter 2 Learning by Experiment: T. H. Huxley and the Aesthetic Nature of Education
Artful Experiments

Philipp Erchinger

Edinburgh University Press

Beginning with John Herschel’s definition of ‘science’ as a specifically impersonal kind of knowledge, this chapter focuses on the relations between the subjective and the objective, pursuing them through the work of T. H. Huxley, Claude Bernard and others. Herschel’s notion of science resonates with the ethos of self-restraint that has been claimed to be constitutive of Victorian objectivity (Daston and Galison). Yet, while some Victorian thinkers certainly subscribed to the ideal of a dispassionate spectator “dying to know” (Levine), many of them were well aware that, in reality, the life of the observer and the matter to be observed were thoroughly entwined. As the chapter shows, this awareness of a deep-seated entanglement of the investigator and the investigated resulted not only in a concern with the ways and means of drawing the personal out of the general (or vice versa), so as to separate the scientific from all that which was not supposed to be part of it. More importantly, the Victorian belief in an intimate connection between being and knowing meant that natural historians such as Huxley attended closely to an experimental field in which the making of science overlaps with questions of sensory perception and aesthetic form.

Keywords:   subjectivity and objectivity, T.H. Huxley, Claude Bernard, experimental field, education, Grant Allen, concept of nature, perception, conception, drawing lines

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