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Masterclass ‘The Sciences of Sexual Desire’

Masterclass ‘The Sciences of Sexual Desire’ by Dr Jacob Stegenga (University of Cambridge)
Organised by the working group History, Health and Healing, under the auspices of the Huizinga Instituut

This is a Masterclass by Dr Jacob Stegenga (University of Cambridge, Department of History and Philosophy of Science). It is part of a full day programme organised by the working group History, Health and Healing under the motto of ‘History of Medicine meets…’. This time, History of Medicine will meet Philosophy of Medicine. Attending the full programme is part of the masterclass.

Description masterclass
The sciences of sexual desire range from anthropology to zoology, and include genetics, immunology, physiology, sociology, statistics, economics, psychology, psychiatry, and evolutionary biology. Many disciplines deploy many methods to pursue many research questions to illuminate many theories. A central question that has animated scientists, philosophers, and cultural commentators is: is there nature to our sexual desires? Some say no: our sexual desires, on this view, are a result of social and cultural factors. Others say yes: our sexual desires, on this second view, are a result, at least in part, of our biological constitution, as shaped by our evolutionary history. The first position we call constructivism, the second nativism. Other argue for a middle position.

Philosophy of science can offer a lens through which messy, complex, and contested details of science can be brought into focus to give us a clear image of the world around us and, indeed, of this fundamental aspect of our selves. This seminar will take as a starting point foundational works in the modern sciences of sexual desire, and will focus on philosophical assessments of, and interventions in, those sciences.

Literature & preparation
The seminar is organised around four sets of texts (PDFs will be provided):

1. Key works in the scientific study of sexual desire,
2. Philosophical criticisms of some sciences of sexual desire,
3. The concept of sexual desire,
4. Further reading.

You are expected to familiarise yourself with the main methods, arguments, and conclusions of the readings of set 1. Set 2 will be the focus of the seminar: it is comprised of assessments of the scientific study of sex and sexual desire from the perspective of philosophy of science. Set 3 provides some philosophical background, while set 4 includes additional reading to pursue your own interests.

Lecture and Forum discussion
The afternoon programme is open and consists of a lecture by Dr Stegenga about his book Medical Nihilism (Oxford University Press, 2018), followed by a Forum discussion with Dr Stegenga and Dutch medical historians and philosophers of medicine. More information about this part of the programme can be found here.

9.00-12.00        Masterclass ‘The Sciences of Sexual Desire’ by Dr Jacob Stegenga
13.00-14.00      Lecture by Dr Jacob Stegenga about his recent publication Medical Nihilism
14.30-15.30       Forum discussion with Dr. Timo Bolt (ErasmusMC), Dr. Rina Knoeff (University of Groningen), Prof. dr. Maartje Schermer (ErasmusMC) and Prof. dr. Jenny Slatman (Tilburg University)

Register (10/10 spaces left)

Bookings are closed for this course.