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Bénedict-Auguste Morel (1809 - 1873)
Related: degeneration - French philosophy
Treatise on the Physical, Intellectual and Moral Degeneration of the Human Race (1857) - Bénedicte Augustin Morel
Image sourced here.The degenerate human being, if he is abandoned to himself, falls into a progressive degradation. He becomes not only incapable of forming part of the chain of transmission of progress in human society, he is the greatest obstacle to this progress through his contact with the healthy proportion of the population. Bénédict Augustin Morel, Treatise on the Physical, Intellectual and Moral Degeneration of the Human Race, 1857
Bénédict Augustin Morel (1809-1873) was a French doctor who in 1857 published Traite des dégénerescence physique, et intellectuelles et morales de l'espéce humaine in which he argued that some illnesses are caused by degeneration. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9n%C3%A9dict_Morel [Sept 2005]
On degenerationFrance, 1857. Benedict Augustin Morel (1809-1873), a French doctor, published Traite des degenerescence physique, et intellectuelles et morales de l'espece humaine in which he argued that disparate illnesses, physical, intellectual, and moral, are all caused by a single process: degeneration. Morel's diagnosis quickly became popular in Continental Europe, though his new theories were less successful in England and the United States.--Andrew Wikholm in Morel "Discovers" Degeneration http://www.gayhistory.com/rev2/events/1857.htm [Sept 2004]
Morel didn't invent degeneracy, but he did create the medical diagnosis. One of the effects of his views was pessimism about treatment: the degenerate, suffering hereditary taint, was best kept in an asylum to prevent the spread of the bad habits that lead to degeneracy and to inhibit degenerate reproduction. Since it explained insanity and abnormality, the idea was applied, in its scientific version, by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in 1877 to "sexual perverts". In his case studies of "congenital inverts", Krafft-Ebing unfailingly found both hereditary taint and the "stigmata", or physical signs, of degeneration. In Italy Cesare Lombroso applied the idea of degeneracy to undesirables of every kind, most notably to the "born criminal".
Degeneracy didn't fare so well in England where it was viewed as a foreign idea, and was relegated to the English fringe. The British sex psychologist Havelock Ellis, though he had a strong hereditarian bent, explicitly rejected the idea of degeneracy in his Sexual Inversion of 1897 as did Sigmund Freud in his Three Essays in 1905.
Morel and other degenerationists have been accused of complicity in the holocaust because of their emphasis on hereditary, incurable, degenerative processes in families and in races, and their zeal to prevent degenerates from reproducing. While ideas of degeneracy and racial purity were essential components of the Nazi extermination campaigns, Morel's contemporaries viewed him as a kind enlightened man. He did recommend incarceration for degenerates, but he advocated the creation of comfortable mountain asylums where they could live unrestrained. Eichmannn et al, using the justification of "racial purity," went well beyond Morel's early vision in their extermination of Jews, homosexuals, and other "degenerate" minorities during the holocaust.--Andrew Wikholm in Morel "Discovers" Degeneration http://www.gayhistory.com/rev2/events/1857.htm [Sept 2004]
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