This highly original contribution to Canadian intellectual history examines the course of critical inquiry and its relationship to the assertion of moral authority in English-Canadian thought during the Victorian era.
Concentrating on the thought of Canada's major scientists, philosophers, and clerics - men such as William Dawson and Daniel Wilson, John Watson and W.D. LeSeur, G.M. Grant and Salem Bland - A Disciplined Intelligence begins by reconstructing the central strands of intellectual and moral orthodoxy prevalent in Anglo-Canadian colleges on the eve of the Darwinian revolution. These include Scottish common sense philosophy and the natural theology of William Paley. The destructive impact of evolutionary ideas on that orthodoxy and the major exponents of the new forms of social evolution - Spencerian and Hegelian alike - are examined in detail.
By the twentieth century the centre of Anglo-Canadian thought had been transformed by what had become a new, evolutionary orthodoxy. The legacy of this triumphant intellectual movement, British idealism, was immense. It helped to destroy Protestant denominationalism, provide the philosophical core of the social gospel movement, and constitute a major force behind the creation of the United Church of Canada. Throughout the nineteenth century and continuing into the twentieth, however, the moral imperative in Anglo-Canadian thought remained a constant presence.