Trouble in the Earthly Paradise

Joan Cadden

in The Moral Authority of Nature

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780226136806
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226136820 | DOI:
Trouble in the Earthly Paradise

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In medieval Europe, “necessity” had close ties to the dynamics of nature, and “freedom” had close ties to the dynamics of the moral sphere, concepts which embodied specific historical meanings peculiar to their particular contexts. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, nature wielded considerable powers, often expressed in terms of necessity, but the rule of nature, whether construed in prescriptive terms (as its order) or in executive terms (as its dominion) was not absolute. Thus infractions against its rule were not subject to the sort of inexorable retribution by nature itself that Fernando Vidal explores in his essay concerning eighteenth-century medical opinions about the fate of masturbators. Nor did medieval freedom involve the option of choosing, much less creating, one's own personal or political reality in ways that became imaginable to moderns—whether the American feminists discussed by Michelle Murphy, who were determined to alter nature, or the Japanese political philosopher discussed by Julia Thomas, who was determined to transcend it.

Keywords: medieval freedom; political reality; American feminists; nature; Christian culture; medieval culture

Chapter.  11227 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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