The Emergence Of Sexuality / Edition 1

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Overview

In a book that moves between philosophy and history, and with lasting significance for both, Arnold Davidson elaborates a powerful new method for considering the history of concepts and the nature of scientific knowledge, a method he calls "historical epistemology." He applies this method to the history of sexuality, with important consequences for our understanding of desire, abnormality, and sexuality itself.

In Davidson's view, it was the emergence of a science of sexuality that made it possible, even inevitable, for us to become preoccupied with our true sexuality. Historical epistemology attempts to reveal how this new form of experience that we call "sexuality" is linked to the emergence of new structures of knowledge, and especially to a new style of reasoning and the concepts employed within it. Thus Davidson shows how, starting in the second half of the nineteenth century, a new psychiatric style of reasoning about diseases emerges that makes possible, among other things, statements about sexual perversion that quickly become commonplace in discussions of sexuality.

Considering a wide range of examples, from Thomas Aquinas to Freud, Davidson develops the methodological lessons of Georges Canguilhem and Michel Foucault in order to analyze the history of our experience of normativity and its deviations.

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Editorial Reviews

Medical History

Davidson's work is one of the most significant applications of Foucault's (and in part Georges Canguilhem's) "historical epistemology" to the development of psychiatric thinking about sexuality. Not only are the chapters written with style and wit, but they explicate some of the most important problems faced by any historian of medical knowledge, particularly historians of psychiatry. No historian of sexuality can afford not to pay close attention to Davidson's work. The first five chapters might be characterized as the application of theory: they are detailed, brilliant, and insightful essays about sex and sexuality, about how new styles of reasoning come into being, and about how we came to be sexual beings. The remaining chapters might be considered a profound exegesis of Foucault's archeological methodology, and indeed a part of their radiance comes from Davidson's reinterpretation of Foucault's works of his "middle period."
— Ivan Crozier

Lorraine Daston
Arnold Davidson's essays revive the adventurous roots of that genre as a daring venture or trial. The result is a new and stimulating hybrid of history and philosophy -- historical epistemology -- which does full justice to the otherness of the past without losing sight of the structures and rules of coherence that forge concepts worthy of the name.
Stanley Cavell
In presenting his account of historical epistemology (tracing the ways concepts are modified as conditions of objectivity and forms of subjectivity change each other), Arnold Davidson takes as a pivotal task the confrontation of Foucault's writing (to the totality of which Davidson is a world-renowned guide) with that of Freud (on whose Three Essays on Sexuality he has produced ground-breaking work), along the way showing the pertinence to his project of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. A growing body of students and specialists in philosophy, and cultural studies, and the history of science, in particular of psychiatry, have been profiting from Arnold Davidson's clarity and his stunning erudition for a couple of decades now. This initial selection of his essays is an excellent introduction to his singular array of scholarly and critical accomplishments.
Peter Galison
An extraordinary collection of papers that will constitute a book of lasting value for the history of science, the history of medicine and psychiatry, critical theory, and philosophy. Arnold Davidson has accomplished what many have tried and practically none successfully accomplished: he has found a way to write of and through both the analytic tradition in philosophy and the continental concern with épistémologie. People may well turn to this book as a source about the emergence of sexuality, the nature of historical argumentation, the nature of "monstrosity," "perversion," or the interpretation of Foucault. But in my view it is really about the nature of concepts: as such, it offers one of the most sustained, interesting and novel attempts to join the analytic and historical dimensions of the "concept" problem that we have in the last fifty years.
David Halperin
I think of him as one among a very small handful of scholars in the history of sexuality whose work is invariably rigorous in the best sense, both conceptually precise and empirically informed, and for that reason, not only worth reading but worth the closest attention. Davidson's unique contribution consists in a precise analysis of thought-in-action, of the logics embedded in human practices, the immanent philosophy of cultural systems. It is Davidson's signal achievement to have been able to bring those heterogeneous considerations together in a unified analysis without sacrificing either a precise philosophical specification of the content of the particular ideas and their internal relations or a complex understanding of the concrete historical and cultural conditions that determine their meaning and application.
Ian Hacking
No one of his generation has better mastered Foucault's archeological and genealogical work than Davidson. I do not mean in saying so that he is an expert on Foucault (which he is) but rather that he has learned how best to do his own work having seen what Foucault could do.
Medical History - Ivan Crozier
Davidson's work is one of the most significant applications of Foucault's (and in part Georges Canguilhem's) "historical epistemology" to the development of psychiatric thinking about sexuality. Not only are the chapters written with style and wit, but they explicate some of the most important problems faced by any historian of medical knowledge, particularly historians of psychiatry. No historian of sexuality can afford not to pay close attention to Davidson's work. The first five chapters might be characterized as the application of theory: they are detailed, brilliant, and insightful essays about sex and sexuality, about how new styles of reasoning come into being, and about how we came to be sexual beings. The remaining chapters might be considered a profound exegesis of Foucault's archeological methodology, and indeed a part of their radiance comes from Davidson's reinterpretation of Foucault's works of his "middle period."
Medical History
Davidson's work is one of the most significant applications of Foucault's (and in part Georges Canguilhem's) "historical epistemology" to the development of psychiatric thinking about sexuality. Not only are the chapters written with style and wit, but they explicate some of the most important problems faced by any historian of medical knowledge, particularly historians of psychiatry. No historian of sexuality can afford not to pay close attention to Davidson's work. The first five chapters might be characterized as the application of theory: they are detailed, brilliant, and insightful essays about sex and sexuality, about how new styles of reasoning come into being, and about how we came to be sexual beings. The remaining chapters might be considered a profound exegesis of Foucault's archeological methodology, and indeed a part of their radiance comes from Davidson's reinterpretation of Foucault's works of his "middle period."
— Ivan Crozier
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674013704
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 0.58 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Arnold I. Davidson is Professor of Philosophy and Divinity, and a member of the Committee on the Conceptual Foundations of Science, at the University of Chicago.
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Table of Contents

Preface

1. Closing up the Corpses

2. Sex and the Emergence of Sexuality

3. How to Do the History of Psychoanalysis: A Reading of Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality

4. The Horror of Monsters

5. Styles of Reasoning: From the History of Art to the Epistemology of Science

6. The Epistemology of Distorted Evidence: Problems around Carlo Ginzburg's Historiography

7. Foucault and the Analysis of Concepts

8. On Epistemology and Archeology: From Canguilhem to Foucault

Appendix: Foucault, Psychoanalysis, and Pleasure

Notes

Credits

Index

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