In this article I revisit the relationship between Immanuel Kant and the Marquis De Sade, following not Jacques Lacan but Pierre Klossowski. In the process I suggest that Sade's work is marred by a series of antinomies that prevent him from stating a pure practical libertine reason and leave his view purely theoretical.
How did Casanova learn the theory of sex? Why did male pornographers write in the characters of women? What happens when philosophers take sexuality seriously and the sex-writers present their outrageous fantasies as an educational, philosophical quest? -/- Schooling Sex is the first full history of early modern libertine literature and its reception, from Aretino and Tullia d'Aragona in 16th century Italy to Pepys, Rochester, and Behn in late 17th century England. James Turner explores the idea of sexual education, from (...) the simple instructional dialogue to the advanced experiments of the philosophical libertine, analysing the hard-core curiculum that defined sexuality centuries before the Marquis de Sade. He shows how close, nuanced readings of neglected but compelling texts - like the searingly explicit Alcibiade fanciullo, L'escole des filles, and Aloisia Sigea - link them to larger issues of gender politics, aesthetics, literary criticism, sexual history, medical science, mind-body philosophy, and the educational revolution. (shrink)
Reading Beauvoir's “Must We Burn Sade?” alongside the chapter called “Sexual Initiation” in The Second Sex, I argue that the problem with Sade is not his perversity, but his perpetual virginity. In The Second Sex, Beauvoir advances a new understanding of sexual initiation as a physical and spiritual movement toward the other, disqualifying any purely physical machination as sufficient to initiate one into “authentic erotic reality.” Sade's refusal of Eros as described in “Must We Burn Sade?” demonstrates that the Marquis's (...) commitment to his characteristic Sadism in fact condemned him to a barren promiscuity, a trenchant and joyless virginity that he elected to perpetuate. Finally, I argue that we should reread Sadism not as a perversion but as based on the Greek model of the “virgin ailment.” As such, Sadism may turn out to be a more genuine and widespread threat than we ordinarily acknowledge. (shrink)
Choderlos de Laclos’s novel 'Les Liaisons dangereuses', first published in 1782, is regarded as one of the outstanding works of French literature. This article concerns a well known commentary by the twentieth-century writer André Malraux which, though often mentioned by critics, has seldom been studied in detail. The article argues that, while Malraux endorses the favourable modern assessments of 'Les Liaisons dangereuses', his analysis diverges in important respects from prevailing critical opinion. In particular, he regards the work as the commencement (...) of an important new stage in the French novel rather than, as often argued, the culmination of the existing libertine tradition. (shrink)
The work of Alain Badiou attempts to refound the project of Western philosophy by returning to the platonic celebration of mathematics as the basis for any transmissible knowledge. In “The New Man's Fetish,” Tracy McNulty shows that Badiou's return to Plato is secretly mediated by the French libertine tradition. Badiou derives the militant figure of mathematics less from Plato than from Lautréamont—in whose “Songs of Maldoror” she (mathematics) appears as a stern mistress. Reading McNulty, within the framework of psychoanalytic debates (...) around the clinic of perversion, I show that McNulty's emphasis upon this mediation, despite appearances, functions less to undermine the authority of Badiou's philosophical project than to raise the stakes of perversion. Taking Badiou's libertinism seriously makes it possible to grasp how perversion strives to formalize the death drive and thus to open politics and philosophy to the future. At the same time, McNulty shows that Badiou's theory of number makes it possible to rethink the distinctions between number, trope, figure, and fetish; and thus to reopen a discussion of the relationships between philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literature. (shrink)
In this article we search the sense of some letters that Descartes exchanges with Mersenne about a “mean book” in which some emblematic theses of the so called libertinisme érudit are exposed. The correspondance of the 30’s, the period in which the philosopher is constructing his system of metaphysics, shows clearly his antagonic position against the theoretical world of libertinism, and, therefore, the philosophical importance of this intellectual movement at the very moment that the “new philosophy” is being constructed. (...) The relevance that the metaphysics of Descartes gains in historiography of philosophy, might be the reason why that libertinisme érudit has fallen into oblivion until at least the second half of XXth century. (shrink)
This article is concerned with three exceptional episodes in Descartes's life, each of which had a profound impact on the development of his thought; several arguments are advanced and new primary material uncovered to support our contentions. First, he did indeed visit Prague in November 1620 and his experiences there shaped his later views of mechanical automata, optical illusions, and the pseudosciences. Second, his encounter with the mysterious Sieur de Chandoux (identified here for the first time) in November 1628 shows (...) that Chandoux was not a reformer or a skeptic but a disguised cynic or erudite libertine. Third, he had close family connections with, and an informed report about, the demonic possessions of Loudun (near Poitiers) in 1634-36, and these shaped his version of the evil demon argument in the _Meditations. Through this argument and his 'new way of ideas' Descartes overthrew traditional notions about soul and mind, the status of the subject, and the evidence for truth. This permitted an understanding of the manner in which one can be an other for oneself and the manner in which certainty can be grounded with the 'objective' structures of consciousness. (shrink)
Were it not for the Marquis de Sade's explicit use of language and complete disregard for the artificially constructed taboos of a religious morality he despised, the novelty and profundity of his thought, and above all, its fundamental modernity, would have long since secured him a place alongside the greatest authors and thinkers of the European Enlightenment. -/- This Very Short Introduction aims to disentangle the 'real' Marquis de Sade from his mythical and demonic reputation of the past two hundred (...) years. Phillips examines Sade's life and work: his libertine novels, his championing of atheism, and his uniqueness in bringing the body and sex back into philosophy. (shrink)
Defends "The New Men's Studies: From Feminist Theory to Gender Scholarship" (Hypatia 2:1, Winter 1987) against what is argued are Mary Libertin's misreadings. The argument for men's studies is logically independent of though related to the debate about essentialism in women's studies. Men's studies studies men in and as particular groups. Intellectual should not be equated with institutional autonomy. The feminist study of men should be supported by feminist scholars.
Passion's Triumph over Reason presents a comprehensive survey of ideas of emotion, appetite, and self-control in English literature and moral thought of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In a narrative which draws on tragedy, epic poetry, and moral philosophy, Christopher Tilmouth explores how Renaissance writers transformed their understanding of the passions, re-evaluating emotion so as to make it an important constituent of ethical life rather than the enemy within which allegory had traditionally cast it as being. This interdisciplinary study departs (...) from current emphases in intellectual history, arguing that literature should be explored alongside the moral rather than political thought of its time. The book also develops a new approach to understanding the relationship between literature and philosophy. Consciously or not, moral thinkers tend to ground their philosophising in certain images of human nature. Their work is premissed on imagined models of the mind and presumed estimates of man's moral potential. In other words, the thinking of philosophical authors (as much as that of literary ones) is shaped by the pre-rational assumptions of the 'moral imagination'. Because that is so, poets and dramatists in their turn, in speaking to this material, typically do more than just versify the abstract ideas of ethics. They reflect, directly and critically, upon those same core assumptions which are integral to the writings of their philosophical counterparts. -/- Authors examined here include Aristotle, Augustine, Hobbes, and an array of lyric poets; but there are new readings, too, of The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost, Hamlet and Julius Caesar, Dryden's 'Lucretius', and Etherege's Man of Mode. Tilmouth's study concludes with a revisionist interpretation of the works of the Earl of Rochester, presenting this libertine poet as a challenging, intellectually serious figure. Written in a lucid, accessible style, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers. (shrink)
This paper investigates the relationship between the eminent 19th-century naturalists Charles Darwin and Carl Vogt. On two separate occasions, Vogt asked Darwin for permission to translate some of the latter’s books into German, and in both cases Darwin refused. It has generally been assumed that Darwin turned down Vogt as a translator because of the latter’s reputation as a radical libertine who was extremely outspoken in his defence of scientific materialism and atheism. However, this explanation does not fit the facts, (...) since, on closer investigation, Darwin not only gave serious consideration to engaging Vogt as the German translator of two of his books, albeit ultimately rejecting him, but he also collaborated with Vogt on the French editions of his works. In this paper we argue that this was not because Darwin was unaware of Vogt’s personality and blunt writing style; rather, Darwin seems to have decided that the benefits he would gain from their association would clearly outweigh the risk of offending some of his readers: in working with Vogt, who was not only a knowledgeable scientist but also an avowed adherent of Darwinism, Darwin could be assured of the scientific quality of the translation and of an edition that would not distort his central concepts – both of which were by no means matters of course in 19th-century translations of scientific works. (shrink)
This writer who has warned us of the “ideological” function of both the oeuvre and the author as unquestioned forms of discursive organization has gone quite far in constituting for both these “fictitious unities” the name (with all the problems of such a designation) Michel Foucault. One text under review, La Volonté de Savoir, is the methodological introduction of a projected five-volume history of sexuality. It will apparently circle back over that material which seems to have a special fascination for (...) Foucault: the gradual emergence of medicine as an institution, the birth of political economy, demography and linguistics as “human sciences,” the invention of incarceration and confinement for the control of the “other” in society (the mad, the libertine, the criminal) and that special violence that lurks beneath the power to control discourse. (shrink)
Enlightenment optimism over mankind's progress was often voiced in terms of botanical growth by key figures such as John Millar; the mind's cultivation marked the beginning of this process. For agriculturists such as Arthur Young cultivation meant an advancement towards virtue and civilization; the cultivation of the mind can similarly be seen as an enlightenment concept which extols the human potential for improvable reason. In the course of this essay I aim to explore the relationship between ?culture? and ?cultivation? through (...) botanical metaphor. By using the recurring motif of the mind's cultivation as a site from which to explore enlightenment views on female understanding, I investigate how far concerns with human progress extended to the female mind. I examine the language of botany and cultivation in texts by authors such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Anna Laetitia Barbauld alongside that of Rousseau and Millar. Wollstonecraft's appropriation and subsequent inversion of the conventional cultivation metaphor, for example, demonstrates her desire to draw attention to society's neglect of women's educational potential by substituting images of enlightened growth with those of luxuriant decay. By pushing this analogy further she indicates how society has cultivated women rearing them like exotic flowering plants or ?luxuriants? where ?strength of body and mind are sacrificed to libertine notions of beauty?. I discuss the antipastoral rationalism which enables her to unmask the false sentiment behind this traditional metaphoric association between women and flowers arguing that such familiar tropes are the language of male desire and are indicative of women's problematic relationship to culture. (shrink)
This paper is a response to the problematic relation between men's studies and women's studies; it is also a particular response to Harry Brod's discussion of the theoretical need for men's studies programs in his article "The New Men's Studies: From Feminist Theory to Gender Scholarship." The paper argues that a male feminist would be more effective in a women's studies program, that the latter already includes research about the experiences of both males and females. Although future research on both (...) genders is needed, the paper argues that there does not currently exist a gap in theory or in practice in women's studies programs, as Brod claims. The paper argues in favor of both men and women working together to strengthen and broaden women's studies programs in existence and encourages the creation of more programs and more study of gender issues. (shrink)