David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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University of Chicago Press (2002)
This study looks at the lives of the most famous "wild children" of eighteenth-century Europe, showing how they open a window onto European ideas about the potential and perfectibility of mankind. Julia V. Douthwaite recounts reports of feral children such as the wild girl of Champagne (captured in 1731 and baptized as Marie-Angelique Leblanc), offering a fascinating glimpse into beliefs about the difference between man and beast and the means once used to civilize the uncivilized. A variety of educational experiments failed to tame these feral children by the standards of the day. After telling their stories, Douthwaite turns to literature that reflects on similar experiments to perfect human subjects. Her examples range from utopian schemes for progressive childrearing to philosophical tales of animated statues, from revolutionary theories of regenerated men to Gothic tales of scientists run amok. Encompassing thinkers such as Rousseau, Sade, Defoe, and Mary Shelley, Douthwaite shows how the Enlightenment conceived of mankind as an infinitely malleable entity, first with optimism, then with apprehension. Exposing the darker side of eighteenth-century thought, she demonstrates how advances in science gave rise to troubling ethical concerns, as parents, scientists, and politicians tried to perfect mankind with disastrous results.
|Keywords||Philosophical anthropology History French literature History and criticism Philosophical anthropology History English literature History and criticism|
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|Call number||BD450.D665 2002|
|ISBN(s)||0226160564 9780226160559 0226160556 9780226160566|
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Joanne Faulkner (2012). Innocents and Oracles: The Child as a Figure of Knowledge and Critique in the Middle-Class Philosophical Imagination. Critical Horizons 12 (3):323 - 346.
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