May 182007

Brissenden, R.F. Virtue in Distress MacMillan, 1974

My readings on slavery and sympathy brought me to the concept of sensibility. This is a key concept in how we think about human nature, and I think will prove to be a key issue in the history of BDSM.

We’re used to thinking of reason and emotion as being opposing forces in the human mind. In the late 18th century, however, thinkers like Rousseau and Locke developed the idea of sensibility, which is part of a related cluster of related words with shifting meanings, including “sense” (both as in “the five senses” and as in “common sense”), “sentient”, “sensation”, “sentiment” and “sentimentality.”
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