Chapter

Introduction

in The Wild Girl, Natural Man, and the Monster

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2002 | ISBN: 9780226160559
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226160573 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226160573.003.0001
Introduction

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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Literary discourse was largely optimistic about science's ability to discover the truth about human nature. This chapter explores real-life experiments applying Rousseauian methods to childrearing and the disastrous results that ensued. The fault lines inherent in the texts of enlightened rationalism underwent a seismic shift in the revolutionary period, when the ideological tensions between natural rights and civil responsibilities—which run through all the discourse on perfecting mankind—suddenly created a schism between republican and loyalist groups. The practice of making experiments has been quite widespread in Europe for several years; as a result philosophical knowledge has grown and become better known. The discourse on perfecting mankind relies on this amateur scientism. The regulatory public eye is another concern shared by both scientific and literary writers. The public eye played a key role in experimental inquiry; it was a means of guaranteeing the scientist's veracity and of stimulating new discoveries.

Keywords: human nature; real-life experiments; discoveries; literary writers; scientific writers

Chapter.  3850 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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