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Clare Stainthorp (Queen Mary University of London): Constance Naden
April 17, 2024 5:00 pm UK time

Abstract 

Constance Naden (1858–1889) was a philosopher, poet, and student of science. While she most frequently appears on literature syllabi, there is an increasing body of scholarship concerned with her philosophical works. Certainly, her philosophical writings (underpinned by her scientific studies) and identity as a freethinker were the elements of her life’s work that she prioritized. While Naden initially propounded the theory of Hylo-Idealism – an idealist-materialist philosophy that rejected dualism – she became increasingly uneasy with dogmatic advocacy of a single creed and, influenced by Herbert Spencer’s Synthetic Philosophy and the radical secularist movement, came to write more broadly about ethics and the social nature of humanity. Her mature writings focused upon Cosmic Identity, a relational system that found unity in diversity and prioritized mutual understanding over individualism. This talk will introduce Naden’s ideas, outlining her cumulative philosophical practice through which she synthesized diverse knowledge to develop a secular theory of life and mind.

Biography

Clare Stainthorp is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on the nineteenth-century freethought movement and its periodicals. She is the author of Constance Naden: Scientist, Philosopher, Poet (2019) and co-editor (with Naomi Hetherington) of the Routledge resource volume Nineteenth-Century Religion, Literature and Society: Disbelief and New Beliefs (2020). 

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