Onanism, Enlightenment Medicine, and the Immanent Justice of Nature

Fernando Vidal

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:
Onanism, Enlightenment Medicine, and the Immanent Justice of Nature

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Like a Freudian dream, the idea of nature was made up of displaced and condensed elements, its meaning overdetermined and variable, its interpretation subject to endless and undecidable debate. Its huge success in the French Enlightenment came from its capacity to unite opposites and apparently answer every possible question about the world, humanity, and the place of the latter within the former. The Swiss physician Samuel Tissot, whose work is examined in this chapter, made imagination responsible for counternatural sexuality. Imagination obviously belonged in human nature, but its exercise frequently counteracted the purposes of human life, also defined by nature itself. As in the medieval context studied in this book by Joan Cadden, although nature remained associated with moral conduct and social order, natural processes themselves could corrupt natural order.

Keywords: idea of nature; French Enlightenment; Samuel Tissot; counternatural sexuality; natural order

Chapter.  11561 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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