Organizing nature: Sex, philosophy and the biological

Philosophy and Social Criticism 35 (7):823-840 (2009)
Abstract
Contemporary understandings of nature, or what is ‘natural’, are increasingly subject to debate in our bio-technological age. In this article, I argue that ideas about nature and biology bear a largely unacknowledged relation to normative ideas about sex in western science and philosophy. By examining the concepts of nature and sex in the writings of prominent 18th-century thinkers such as Kant, Rousseau, Burke and Linnaeus, I try to show that in response to the withdrawal, absence or ‘death’ of God that characterizes the Enlightenment worldview, the desire to control sexual expression emerges as a key feature of scientific, aesthetic and philosophical systems of knowledge. Moreover, this desire shapes the concept of nature in such a way that it becomes amenable to the specifically 19th-century figuration of modern biological science
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