Natural Law and Medical Ethics in the Eighteenth Century

  • Johanna Geyer-Kordesch
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 45)


Natural law theory, easily one of the most influential ideological advances in post-Reformation Protestantism, did more than change legal and political thinking. A little discussed effect after 1690 in Prussia concerned the li n k between mor a l ity and profession a l m a n ners in the secul a r me r ito cracy of law and med i ci ne as these disc ip li nes esta blis hed an autonomous image. The somber pic t ure of Lu t her an and C a lvi n ist a r biters of morality in the professions changed to the more colorful patterns of gracious worldliness, less frozen in the scrupulosity of morals and more self-assured in the temper of the reforms sought against traditionalists. The élite lawyers and doctors of the age — they were generally at universities or charged with administrative responsibilities — saw a distinct advantage in pressing for autonomy within the context of a new social style of their own. They measured autonomy by social savoir faire. The emphasis on the manners of the secular professions — and this is what decorum was about — suggested law and medicine were unimpeachably sovereign both in what they knew and what they were.


Medical Ethic Eighteenth Century Middle Ground Medical Evidence Court Trial 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • Johanna Geyer-Kordesch

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