Subtitle: enlightenment culture and the inhuman
Nice work on a nasty subject, the conflation of pity, power, reason, and science with cruelty in the Enlightenment. It doesn't just remind one that science, medicine especially, developed with cruelty, but makes an argument that the delight in cruelty was more of the scientific impulse than one would like to think. I only skimmed it, as (one) I really ought to be working on a dozen other things, and (two) it draws lots of its evidence from Hogarth and. I accordingly noticed mostly the surgery & sex parts, which jump out because of the illustrations. I didn't do any justice to the arguments from the Scottish Enlightenment, which had most of the claims for kindness and sympathy as natural states; from , among others.
I did notice, among a dozen more things I want to read, a reference to a novel Melmoth the Wanderer by one, which has a shipwreck in it; I want to read that and look for 's Maturin's slightly creepy scientific detachment.
Slightly later in the day, again distracted from those dozen things, I was drawn into Love at Goon Park; also about slightly creepy scientific detachment with results that were probably a boon to human suffering. Goon Park is the nickname of the psych lab where Harry Harlow did the paradigm-shattering experiments with wire-mother monkeys, and many follow-up experiments; all showing with great clarity that affection, even a pale simulacrum of affection, is as necessary for primate development as food.
The first experiment showed that baby macaques preferred a terry-cloth 'mother' to an equally warm wireframe 'mother', even if the latter had the milk. Follow-ons demonstrated that affection and socialization are needed for monkey development. This overturned a congeries of accepted theories, among them that babies had no particular attachment to their parents except as a source of food, that maternal affection led to needy stupidity, etc etc. The three amazing things in the summary of the experiments and the theories they overthrew are, first, that anyone could have had such cruel beliefs about humans or monkeys; second, that monkeys at least can develop well-enough given the least, barest, pathetic simulacrum of care - terrycloth is almost enough by itself; third and most relevant to Cruel Delight, that anyone who had the insight to start these experiments could be cruel enough to do them. Some of it was good old clinical detachment, some the knowledge that only controlled experiments would convince experts to stop prescribing cruelty in real life, and some was probably related to his own deep and repeated unhappiness. How would that heart weigh against a feather?
ISBN: 0253343674 (Cruel Delight)
ISBN: 0738202789 (Love at Goon Park)