Edward Burnett Tylor

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tylor, Edward Burnett


Born Oct. 2, 1832, in London; died Jan. 2, 1917, in Wellington, Somersetshire. British ethnographic specialist in primitive cultures.

Tylor became keeper of the University Museum at Oxford in 1883. In 1896 he became the first professor of anthropology at Oxford University. His main works were Primitive Culture (vols. 1–2,1871; Russian translation, 1939) and Anthropology (1881; in Russian translation, Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilization, 4th ed., 1924).

Along with H. Spencer, Tylor was one of the founders of the evolutionary school of cultural history and ethnography. In his treatment of the history of culture, Tylor was an idealist. He held that the ideas underlying technology and man’s economic and intellectual activities—ideas that have a life of their own—are embodied in the development of various kinds of tools, forms of art, rites, and beliefs. Tylor’s main field of interest was the history of spiritual culture, and particularly the development of religion. Through his wide-ranging studies of vestigial phenomena, Tylor revealed the historical roots of many customs and rituals that had been incomprehensible or that had acquired new meanings. His theory on the evolution of religion from animism was long dominant in science. Subsequently, however, the limitation of this theory became obvious, inasmuch as Tylor considered religion as merely a phenomenon of individual psychology and not as a fact of socially conscious existence.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Over and over again it is not Tylor, but Edward Burnett Tylor; not Dumont d'Urville, but Jules Sebastien Caesar Dumont d'Urville; and so on.
I address them alongside the work of the evolutionary anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor, who provided highly influential theories of such relevant concepts as animism, fetishism, and idol worship.
Many anthropologists, sociologists, and educators have given various descriptions to define "culture." Anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (1994) defined "cultural" as "[including] knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." Sociologists indicate that culture is not static, but rather is always evolving.
Over against the approaches of Sigmund Freud, Sir Edward Burnett Tylor and Sir James George Frazer, they praise William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience for its nonreductionist, empathetic openness to religion.