E. B. Tylor (18321917)
A. Mentors/training/intellectual tradition
Edward Burnett Tylor was born into the Quaker community in London on October 2,
1832. [ER 9424]
Both Parents were members of the Society of Friends. [ER 9424]
Henry Christy became first mentor, in 1856 Tylor wrote his first book, Anahuac, or
Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern (1861)
No university education however awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford
University in 1875.
Most notable works include, Researches into the Early History of Mankind (1865)
and the more popular, Primitive Culture (2 vols., 1871)
“Evolutionist” approach provided a linear model of progression to explain the origin
Greatest contribution was his work on animism within religious studies of indigenous
and archaic cultures.
Hegel – positive end, humanity will reach its perfect state.
B. Principal geographical and historical concerns
His anthropological theories centered on the origin of religion.
Wrote several books during the rise of science, objectivity and social theories such as
evolution during the 19 century.
Primarily interested in the evolution of religion, using Western Europe as the apex of
Product of his own environment. (The Industrial Revolution)
C. Principal thematic concerns
Evolutionist theories of religion’s origin hold in common a presupposed “psychic
unity of mathind” [ER 2913]
Shares a 19 century enthusiasm for developmental schemata that find their bases in
what might loosely be called a philosophy of history. [ER 2913]
Intellectualized, or “armchair” approach to answering these questions.
D. Attitude toward modern culture
E.B. Tylor viewed how religion was practiced in modern western culture as the
highest form of religion.
Modern culture is morally “correct”.
Animism, Polydaemonism, Polytheism, Monotheism
“Thus if monotheism prevails today in Western Europe, the belief in many spirits
must have been a very early condition, polytheism being a less enlightened stage than
belief in one God.” [C 8] II. Method/Mode of Operation
Evolutionary theories of his time.
“What did they substitute for fact? The answer is, schemes, analogies, and
assumptions, all overlaid with rich imagination.” [C 7]
“Another method was through the use of socalled survivals “processes, customs,
opinions, and so forth, which have been carried on by force of habit into a new state
of society different from that in which they had their original home, and thus they
remain proofs and examples of an older condition of culture out of which a newer
had been evolved.” (Tylor, 1873) [C 7]
Comparison method or “evidences” from tribes all over the world were taken out of
context and arranged in a sequential scheme.
Primitive culture – indigenous tribes both contemporary and historical.
Modern culture – Western Europe and North America.
Animism – belief in spirits that make up the elements, directions, and even the
cosmos, rocks, trees, animals, water, sky, fire, “the dead”.
Polytheism – belief in plural gods, with an occasional “high God”.
Monotheism – belief in one God.
Indigenous tribes found throughout the world, compared to one another and to
Western Europe and North America.
Various customs found in societies that aided to survival.
Theological approach III. Theory/Presuppositions
A. Definition of “religion”
“The first requisite in a systematic study of the religions of the lower races is to lay
down a rudimentary definition of religion. By requiring in this definition the belief in
a supreme deity or of a