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.
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.
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