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The Phrenological Controversy

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Chapter Summary

This presents the manner in which Auguste Comte appealed to phrenology to substantiate his case for women's subjection. It shows that Comte's reliance on phrenology in the case of sexual equality was a particular instance of a more general endorsement of the new "physiology of the brain" as a legitimate approach to the study of mental phenomena. The chapter discusses the exact content of the various criticisms levelled at phrenology by John Stuart Mill and also shows how they were compatible with his naturalism. If the discussion on the scientific status of phrenology cropped up in the correspondence, it was because Mill was aware of the crucial role it played in Comte's case for women's subjection. Comte never failed to emphasize the importance of the phrenological argument in his case for sexual inequality.

Keywords: Auguste Comte; John Stuart Mill; naturalism; phrenological argument; sexual equality



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