Christianity and Infidelity or, A Discussion on the Doctrine of Materialism. Originally Published in the New-England Telegraph. Free Thought, Publius, H. W., pseud.

Christianity and Infidelity or, A Discussion on the Doctrine of Materialism. Originally Published in the New-England Telegraph.

North Wrentham [Mass.]: New-England Telegraph Press, 1834. First edition. Original printed wrappers, 8.75 x 5.63 inches, 32 pages, stitched. Old creasing to the wrappers, some spotting and staining to the wrappers. Item #19553

First published in the columns of Moses Thacher's New-England Telegraph and Eclectic Review, a religious Trojan Horse containing a small troop of early American philosophical and medical thought relating to the mind-body question. The lengthy "sermon" from the pseudonymous clergyman Publius argues against a materialist explanation for mind; the entertaining published rebuttal from the free thought author H. W. attacks the clergyman's arguments at some length, suggesting, "Sir, I cannot for a moment think so unfavorably of your endowments as to suppose you regard your sermon in other light than an *Experiment on the gullibility of our inhabitants!!*" H. W. in part makes physiological arguments and philological arguments to dismantle Publius, and also makes a specific reference that "Some years ago Dr. Knowlton of Ashfield threw down the glove, by proposing, in the Boston Investigator, to discuss the following question:--'Is the thinking part of man immaterial, and capable of existing and thinking independently of the body?' . . . That you may have some knowledge of the views of the materialists of the present day, I herewith send you a copy of Dr. Knowlton's lectures." Publius in his rebuttal to H. W. refers specifically to Knowlton's lectures and to Knowlton's first book, Modern Materialism (otherwise Elements of Modern Materialism, published in North Adams in 1829), scoffing at the materialist assertion that the brain is the source of the mind. The American contraception pioneer Charles Knowlton had written his first book while jailed for grave robbing; he had settled in Ashfield in 1832 after the fairly resounding failure of his materialist philosophical work (he had since discreetly published his contraceptive manual, Fruits of Philosophy)--though this exchange suggests that the work was not entirely ignored in the debates of the day. The identities of each combatant here evidently remains unknown; it seems unlikely at this date that Henry C. Wright would be taking such an aggressive free thought stance, as he was still working within the church as he moved toward more radical positions on reform--though given his later writings on contraception, the association here with Knowlton's writings is at least suggestive. American Imprints 26448.

Price: $250.00