In the face of some recent studies which perceive continuities from the Romantics through the Victorians to the modern, Michael Timko proposes a new view of the ‘charter’ or ‘style’ of the Victorian period as distinctively its own.1 First, as has been rather generally observed, the Victorian age marks a more evolved self-consciousness, as the first age of ‘transition’, ‘between two worlds’, and this self-consciousness lends urgency to self-definition. Second, says Timko, and this has not been so generally observed, it is an age in which epistemological concerns take precedence over metaphysical. Third, Darwinism (understood as pre-Darwinian), forces a new confrontation of nature and a redefinition of humanity in its ‘natural’ context. In the 1830s, Timko observes, Kant’s line of thought seemed to be taking hold, putting ‘Natural Theology’ in doubt, and insisting on solipsistic and cultural limits to our knowledge. Kant contrasts phenomena— données in space and time, knowable to our senses — with noumena — things in themselves such as ethics or ultimate reality, which we cannot know. Coleridge is concerned with how phenomena and noumena can be brought together. The Victorian concern is whether they can be brought together.
KeywordsUltimate Reality Natural Theology Cultural Limit Organic Filament Epistemological Concern
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