Nature, the Body, and Decency

“From the beginning nature itself seems to have been thoroughly rational concerning our bodies: she has placed in sight those parts of our form and features that have an honourable appearance, but has covered and hidden the parts of the body that are devoted to the necessities of nature and would have an ugly and dishonourable look.  Nature’s very careful craftmanship is mirrored in men’s sense of shame.  For everyone of sound mind keeps out of sight the very parts that nature has hidden, and makes an effort to obey necessity itself as secretly as possible.  Again, concerning those parts of the body that are used out of necessity, they refer by their own names neither to the parts themselves, not to their uses.  It is not dishonourable to do such things, provided one does them in secret, but it is indecent to speak of them.  Therefore, neither such activity, if it is public, nor indecency of speech, is free from scurrility.”  Cicero, On Duties I. 126-127. eds. and trans. M.T. Griffin and E.M. Atkins (Cambridge 1991), p. 49.

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