Oscar Otto Christian Hansen (1856-1938)

Associate professor of education 1905-22, MA philosophy 1887, Dr. Phil. 1892, teacher at Vesterbro College of Education 1884-1905, member of Studentersamfundet [the Society of Students], liberal member of parliament 1896-1903. 

The positivist philosopher Oscar Hansen was one of the pioneers of working-class education in Copenhagen. He was on the board of the Society of Students’ Education of Workers and he lectured on biological and social evolution before working-class audiences in Copenhagen. Hansen advocated an anticlerical and materialist version of evolutionism. His popular work Udviklingslære [Evolutionary Theory] (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1901) was the first introduction to evolutionary theory in Denmark which included both its biological and social aspects. In his discussion of social evolution he asserted a progressive development of civilisation and claimed that the individualism of Herbert Spencer had to be adjusted by the collectivism of Karl Marx. However, Hansen had his reservations towards the idea of progress. He made it clear that the future course of social evolution would not necessarily lead to perfection, since man was not only influenced by his rationality but also by his often destructive instincts. While the Christian press was sceptical of Hansen’s work, the socialist press praised its educational value.

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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