By guest contributor Paul Babinski
In 1783 Karl Philipp Moritz went to Berlin’s Charité hospital looking for a human guinea pig. What we know of the deaf teenager he brought home, Karl Friedrich Mertens, comes from two accounts Moritz published in his journal of experiential psychology, the Magazin für Erfahrungsseelenkunde. The encounter is only a footnote, if that, in the history of deaf pedagogy, but it is a fascinating window onto the experience of the late Enlightenment German thinker as he grappled with disability and the humanity of the disabled at a moment when their supposed limitations were being enshrined in the hierarchies of cold, pseudo-scientific certainty.
Moritz is remembered today for his autobiographical novel, Anton Reiser, whose intense, often brutal psychological self-observation Moritz had cultivated with a circle of collaborators in the pages of the Magazin für Erfahrungsseelenkunde. Moritz took in Mertens to see…
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