E. B. Tylor
Edward Burnett Tylor, one of the founders the modern academic discipline
of Anthropology, belongs to a generation of academics known as the Intellectualists
which includes Müller,
Frazer, all of
who helped pave the way for the modern academic study of religion. Raised
and educated among Quakers (known also as the Society of Friends) and
possessing no formal higher academic education, Tylor left his father's
business in his early twenties and began his scholarly career doing fieldwork
in the mid-1850s in Mexico under the guidance of the amateur British ethnologist
(a scholar of cultural origins and functions) Henry Christy (1810-1865).
In 1875, Tylor received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University where
he was keeper of the Oxford University Museum (1883) and Britain's first
(indeed, the first in the English-speaking world) Professor of Anthropology
(1896), until his retirement in 1909. Tylor--who famously defined culture
as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals,
law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as
a member of society"--held an evolutionary
view concerning the development of culture
arguing that animism
(belief in spirits) was the earliest form of religious behavior. Despite
his interest in what was then commonly known as "primitive religion"
(an interest motivated by the 19th century quest for the origins of religion),
unlike some of his contemporaries, Tylor argued for a "psychic unity
of mankind," assuming that, despite differences in the stages of
their evolutionary development, all humans (past and present) shared common
cognitive functions (such as a curiosity to explain unexpected events
in their environment). The goal of anthropological study, for Tylor, was
to develop a framework in which the evolution of culture could be explained
and the nature of its origins understood.
Anahuac, or Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern (1861)
Researches into the Early History of Mankind (1865)
Primitive Culture (1871; the 1873 edition was divided into two volumes,
The Origins of Culture and Religion in Primitive Culture)
Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilization
"Scientific progress is at times most furthered by working along
a distinct intellectual line, without being tempted to diverge from the
main object to what lies beyond, in however intimate connexion.... My
task has been here not to discuss Religion in all its bearings, but to
portray in outline the great doctrine of Animism, as found in what I conceive
to be its earliest stages among the lower races of mankind, and to show
its transmission along the lines of religious thought."
- from E. B. Tylor, Religion in Primitive Culture (1873)
Secondary Literature on Tylor and Religion
Eric J. Sharpe, Comparative Religion: A History, pp. 53-58.
Open Court, 1986.
Brian Morris, The Anthropological Study of Religion: An Introductory
Text, pp. 98-102. Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Walter Capps, Religious Studies: The Making of a Discipline,
pp. 78-86. Fortress Press, 1995.
Malory Nye, Religion: The Basics, pp. 102-3. Routledge, 2003.
David Daniell, "Tylor, E. B.," The Encyclopedia of Religion,
2nd edition. vol. 14, pp. 9424-9425. Macmillan Reference USA, 2005.