The essay examines the relevance ethics, unexpectedly, assumed in England, in the 1890s. This was due to the rise of eugenics, physiognomics and craniology, extremely dangerous pseudo-sciences that posed a threat to a just society. These were the result of a misinterpretation and a misreading of central Darwinian issues, that this essay specifies, due to Spencer’s social projection of Darwinism. Literature and philosophy reacted strongly. The intelligentsia of the time underlined the peril such pseudo-sciences posed. The indignation shown by philosophers and literati, and their claim for a clear-cut ethical stance to protect those less favored by nature or society, is thus read as an early 19th-century instance of what would only later be termed 'bioethics'.
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