::: about
::: news
::: links
::: giving
::: contact

::: calendar
::: lunchtime
::: annual lecture series
::: conferences

::: visiting fellows
::: postdoc fellows
::: senior fellows
::: resident fellows
::: associates

::: visiting fellowships
::: postdoc fellowships
::: senior fellowships
::: resident fellowships
::: associateships

being here
::: visiting
::: the last donut
::: photo album

::: center home >> events >> conferences >> other >> 2012-13 >> early modern medicine

Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy

Friday - Sunday, 2-4 November 2012
Center for Philosophy of Science
817 Cathedral of Learning
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA USA

Paper Titles and Abstracts
(Alphabetical by Author)

Why All This Jelly? Jacopo Zabarella, Hieronymus Fabricius ab Aquapendente, and Julius Casserius on the Usefulness of the Vitreous Humor
Tawrin Baker, Indiana University Bloomington

            In Europe during the second half of the sixteenth century, anatomical investigation— carried out perhaps most notably by Realdo Colombo—caused a shift in the general consensus regarding the position of the crystalline humor (now called the crystalline lens) from the middle of the eye towards the front of the eye. Consequently, the vitreous humor—the clear gel that fills the space between the crystalline humor and the retina—was understood to be much greater in bulk than had been previously described, particularly by Galen and Vesalius. The crystalline humor itself was still generally held to be the seat of visual sensation, but this new anatomical knowledge caused both empirically minded philosophers and philosophically minded anatomists to rethink theories of light, color, and vision in subtle but important ways—even while their concepts related to vision clearly influenced their description of the parts of the eye. How these natural philosophers and anatomists understood the role of the vitreous humor reveals much about the how they navigated between ancient authorities (particularly Galen and Aristotle) on the nature of vision, and how they reconciled these and other textual authorities with anatomical observation in a post-humanistic academic environment. In this paper I will focus, in particular, on how anatomy and philosophy conspired to understand why this clear jelly made up the majority of the interior of the eye.

            Apart from Kepler, perhaps the most detailed investigations related to this shift occurred in Padua, in the works on vision by the logician and natural philosopher Jacopo Zabarella (1533-1589) and the anatomists Hieronymus Fabricius ab Aquapendente (1533-1619) and Julius Casserius (1552-1616). All three are noteworthy for what we might call the interdisciplinary nature of their investigations related to vision and the eye: they all provided both detailed philosophical accounts of the generation of color, its nature, and the nature of vision, as well as anatomical accounts of the structure, action, and utility of the eye. Significantly, both Zabarella and Fabricius reject Galen's account of the usefulness of the vitreous humor—the former in his “De visu libri duo,” contained in his philosophy textbook De rebus naturalibus libri XXX (Venice, 1590), and the latter in his De visione, voce, auditu (Venice,1600).

            Several historians, perhaps most notably Andrew Cunningham, have suggested that Zabarella influenced Fabricius in some way, but thus far no clear evidence of this has been provided. A close reading of their texts, however, reveals a striking similarity in their reasons for rejecting Galen on the usefulness of the vitreous humor, as well as in the novel account that they each give. This, combined with the fact that Zabarella appeals to personal experience with ocular dissections at a time when Fabricius was the only person with permission to perform public dissections in Padua, strongly suggests both that the philosopher and the anatomist interacted on this issue, and moreover that the influence was likely mutual. Finally, although Casserius was Fabricius's servant, then student, and finally fellow professor in Padua, in his Pentaestheseion (Venice, 1609) Casserius instead follows Galen on the usefulness of the vitreous humor. Furthermore, his text is even more overtly philosophical than Fabricius’s, which raises many questions about the many ways that anatomy and natural philosophy came together during this period.


Who Was the Vesalius of Pathology?
Domenico Bertoloni Meli, Indiana University Bloomington

            Vesalius has long been recognized as a pivotal figure in the history of anatomy for a number of reasons, notably his usage of stunning illustrations that have become iconic in the history of medicine. In pathology, however, illustrations followed a different history and were not routinely produced until much later. My work outlines some problems and trends in pathological iconography, with special emphasis on the nature of the specimens used for the illustrations, the conceptual issues involved in producing visual images of diseases and lesions, and the forms and techniques of representation employed by artists, both draughtsmen and engravers.


Life and active principles in Robert Boyle’s physiology
Antonio Clericuzio, University of Cassino

Boyle's medical research was based on a fusion of corpuscular and iatrochemical views. In this paper I investigate Boyle's explanation of vital phenomena, paying special attention to his work on fermentation - a key-notion in alchemy, Paracelsianism and in van Helmont's medicine. In the 1660s Helmontian medicine gained momentum in England and most natural philosophers and physicians - including Boyle and the Oxford physiologists - had recourse to fermentation to account for a variety of physiological phenomena, including diseases and therapies. I am devoting the first part of my paper to the relationship of alchemy to medicine. The second part deals with Boyle's and his Oxford colleagues’ investigation of physiology, notably their work on fermentation, digestion, and blood.


Mechanistic psychosomatics: the effects of the passions on health
Dennis Des Chene, Washington University, St. Louis

            Descartes’s psychology, though sometimes treated as ignoring the embodiment of the mind, has in fact a great deal to say about it. In particular Descartes offered a rudimentary treatment of the effects of various passions on health by way of their influence on the animal spirits.  I will examine the medical background to Descartes’ views and examine the extension of those views in some later authors, showing that Cartesian medicine, though it did sometimes prescribe mechanistic interventions, also adapted traditions of self-healing through the power of thought.


Rethinking Robert Boyle’s Medical Agenda: The Influence of Lady Katherine Ranelagh
Michelle DiMeo, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

            Several scholars have shown that Boyle’s medical practice was integral to his experimentation with natural philosophy. His dedication to promoting useful natural philosophy made medicine an obvious subject to which he should dedicate himself, and his publications demonstrate his willingness to adapt medical treatments and strategies for different audiences depending on their geographic location, socio-economic status and educational opportunities. However, Boyle’s exact opinion on the seventeenth-century medical conflict between empirics and learned practitioners has yet to be addressed with satisfaction. In particular, how do we reconcile his more confrontational unpublished manuscript treatises with his carefully constructed published works? The latter make careful use of rhetorical strategies and demonstrate a clear awareness of audience, but can we argue that his unpolished manuscripts offer a more authentic view of Boyle's commitment to advancing empiricism?

            This paper argues that Boyle’s medical practice may be better understood when viewed as a partnership with his older sister, Lady Katherine Ranelagh (1615-91).  As is well known, Boyle moved into his sister’s Pall Mall home in 1668, and the two lived together for the rest of their lives until dying only one week apart in December 1691. Many historians, including Charles Webster and Lynette Hunter, have acknowledged Ranelagh’s commanding personality and influence on Boyle; however, it has been difficult to identify the extent of her influence because scarce evidence had been located. With the recent discovery of over 100 extant letters by Lady Ranelagh, several letters to her, nearly 200 references to her in the Hartlib Papers archive, and many mentions of her in the diaries and letters of contemporaries, it is now possible to recreate this story.

            Using these newly discovered manuscripts, I begin with an overview of Lady Ranelagh’s network of elite medical practitioners and her extensive knowledge and practice of medicine. Throughout the course of her life, she maintained relationships with the most respected physicians, including Dr. Thomas Willis, Dr. Daniel Coxe, Dr. William Quartermain, Dr. Thomas Sydenham and Sir Edmund King.  She also treated some of the most elite patients in London: in 1667, she was called in the middle of the night to treat the wife of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, and she was among a select few medical practitioners who treated the 10-month old Duke of Kendal (son of the future James II) when he died, possibly even having attended his autopsy. Like many contemporaries, her practice conflated Galenic and chemical theories, but her ability to articulate the causes of illnesses and her interest in anatomy suggest she had a greater understanding of medicine than most aristocratic women.
Ranelagh played an essential role in Boyle’s intellectual and moral development. She was an active member of the Hartlib Circle before Boyle was involved, and she probably introduced him to Henry Oldenburg and Samuel Hartlib. Several letters exchanged between Boyle and Ranelagh in the 1650s and 1660s demonstrate her role in shaping Boyle into the esteemed chemist he became: her interest in chemistry appears to pre-date his; she shipped his first set of scientific equipment to his Stalbridge estate; and she later encouraged his move to Oxford by visiting the city and finding him suitable accommodation. She also actively encouraged his composition of the early moral tracts, read and critiqued a variety of his works prior to their publication, and eventually employed Robert Hooke to expand her Pall Mall house to include a laboratory for Boyle’s use.

            Like Boyle, Lady Ranelagh was a devout Protestant; however, her views were more extreme than his and her interest in natural philosophy was intimately linked with her radical idealism. Across the civil wars and interregnum, Ranelagh explored several natural philosophical projects intended to benefit society, ranging from decimalizing the currency to promoting horticultural innovations like Benjamin Worsley’s salt-petre project. Her letters consistently use religious rhetoric to validate new discoveries, and she promoted Baconian openness as a means for engendering the Great Instauration.Yet after the monarchy was restored in 1660 and the Hartlib Circle dissipated in the more conservative, institutionalized environment of Restoration natural philosophy, Ranelagh’s interests narrowed in focus. After 1662, she dedicated herself almost exclusively to medicine, the branch of natural philosophy with the most direct benefits to society. Her letters evidence that she actively practiced medicine and was considered an authority for over forty years: c. 1648-1691. Blending her strict code of ethics with her awareness of the gendered social conventions for an aristocratic woman, Ranelagh maintained an extensive medical practice based on charity. However, while she mostly escaped critique from accredited physicians, she harbored strong opinions about those who gave up on their patients prematurely or who caused more harm than good. Her letters to Robert Boyle and her other brother, Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, include sharp critiques of physicians, firmly placing her on the side of the empirics in the seventeenth-century medical conflict.

            With this new body of material, a more convincing look at Ranelagh’s role in Boyle’s intellectual and ethical development may be asserted, particularly with respect to his medical agenda. A close comparison of Boyle’s published works with Ranelagh’s letters also exposes new connections. Michael Hunter has demonstrated that Boyle suppressed his critique of the Galenic methodus medendi, but the possible reasons he gives for this are, by his own assertion, inconclusive. By showing some overlap in Boyle’s and Ranelagh’s rhetoric and reasoning, I argue that Ranelagh may have promoted the composition of this piece, as she did with several similar pieces authored by Boyle. I also show that Boyle paid tribute to his sister’s far-reaching and successful medical practice in several of his Restoration publications, sometimes invoking her name to authorize more controversial methods. Dedicated to Ranelagh’s only son, Richard Jones, Boyle’s Usefulness of Natural Philosophy (1662-63) contains many references to “that Excellent Person your Mother” or “A great and excellent Lady (a near Kinswoman, Pyrophilus [Richard Jones], of yours and mine)”. His work diaries also include references to his sister’s presence and he names her as the author of several medical recipes he collected. Their life-long collaboration may even be evidenced in Boyle’s will, in which he bestows to her his recipe books. 
By looking at Boyle’s medical practice as a partnership with Lady Ranelagh, Boyle’s more radical manuscripts no longer appear to be strange contradictions in a larger narrative of his “nonconfrontational demeanor”, to quote Barbara Kaplan. Instead, we see a complex collaboration between the siblings where it is sometimes difficult to separate the originator of a particular medical remedy or theory, and that they were careful and able navigators of their rapidly changing socio-political climate.


‘Mechanics’ in Harvey’s Anatomy: its varieties and limits
Peter Distelzweig
, University of Pittsburgh

            William Harvey’s De motu cordis (1628) is a classic text in the history of medicine and played a prominent role in the rise of mechanical and experimental approaches to natural philosophy in the 17th century. Descartes, Hobbes and Boyle (among others) praised Harvey’s short, cogent argument for the forceful systole of the heart and the circulation of the blood. Hobbes even suggested that Harvey was to the science of the human body what Galileo was to the science of motion and Copernicus to astronomy.  It is perhaps surprising, then, that Harvey’s was a self-consciously Aristotelian and Galenic approach to anatomy. He understood the goal of anatomy to be final causal Aristotelian scientia of the parts of animals articulated using the Galenic notions of the ‘actions’ and ‘uses’ of the parts. Furthermore, Harvey defended the existence of a non-mechanical ‘pulsific virtue’ in the heart and was critical of Descartes’ mechanistic theory of the heart and, more generally, of the corpuscularianism associated with (e.g.) Descartes, Gassendi, Hobbes and Boyle. Indeed, in his work on generation he even criticizes his teacher Fabricius for being overly influenced by the thinking of mechanics. At the same time, in the De motu cordis Harvey compares the passive expansion of the arteries to the inflation of a glove and the expansion of a bladder, and in the Letters to Riolan he compares the heart to a pump. Furthermore, in his early lecture notes Harvey compares various digestive organs to chemical apparatus, and in his working notes on animal locomotion and its organs he sketches a program for integrating mathematical mechanics into the study of muscle anatomy and considers a multi-step process leading to muscle contraction under the heading of ratio mechanica.

            Clearly, Harvey’s attitude towards ‘mechanics’ and ‘mechanical’ is a complex one. This should be no surprise, as the nature and meaning of ‘mechanics’ and ‘mechanical’ in the early 17th century is itself a complex and multi-faceted issue. In this paper I explore the complex and varied uses of the mechanics/mechanical in Harvey’s works.


Louis de la Forge on the generation and function of animal spirits
Patricia Easton
, Claremont Graduate University

             Louis de la Forge (1632-1666) was a medical doctor and an early defender of the Cartesian philosophy. He is best known for his views on causation and his development of occasionalism within the Cartesian school. Commentators such as Balz (1932), Garber (1987), and Nadler (1998) have focused on the consequences of La Forge’s views for Cartesian metaphysics and physics, with little consideration of La Forge’s medical philosophy. La Forge provides a sophisticated version of Cartesian mind-body dualism, a physicalist account of the animal spirits, corporeal memory, and a host of other topics relevant to his conception of the human body-machine. The central question of this paper is how the body-machine interacts with the mind in La Forge's explanation of psychosomatic phenomena, such as aversion. I argue that La Forge provides a non-reductive account of the mutual dependence of the operations of the mind and body. I examine La Forge’s lenthy Remarques in the second French edition of Descartes’ L’Homme de Rene Descartes et un Traite de la Formation du Foetus (1667) (de la Forge’s commentary fills some 244 pages of the 511 page work) and his Traité de l'esprit de l'homme et de ses facultez et fonctions, et de son union avec le corps (1666). De la Forge provides a rich account of the generation and workings of the animal spirits and their interaction with the human soul, giving us an important vantage point to see the reception and development of the Cartesian medical philosophy in France.


A Tale of Two Anatomies: William Harvey and Philosophical Anatomy
Benjamin Goldberg
, East Tennessee State University

            There were once two anatomies, separate and unequal. Here I hope to explain what they were, and how they came to be unified.

            Anatomy was divided in two: there was historia, a less noble aspect dealing with observation and dissection of animal bodies, and scientia, a nobler aspect dealing with the causes of animal bodies through reason and learned books. Although this dualism survived late into the seventeenth century, in the work of the philosopher and physician William Harvey there was, in fact, an earlier example of a distinctly unified conception of anatomy. Here the scientific aspect was integrated with the historical: the goal of anatomy was to discover the causes of the parts through visual inspection and dissection. Though this seems banal from our historical vantage, it was, in point of fact, a conceptual breakthrough, one whose current triviality masks a deep philosophical change in anatomy.

            In order to appreciate Harvey’s conceptual innovation in understanding anatomy as necessitating a cohesive empirical method for ascertaining causes, I must first characterize the traditional conception of anatomy. I trace the history of the development of certain philosophical aspects of anatomy, those having to do with the distinction between experience and reason in anatomical method. I outline the development of anatomy from Galen through the early Renaissance and into the early modern era, looking in detail at figures such as Gaspar Bauhin, Andreas du Laurens, and of course the great Vesalius. I focus in particular on two others working in the Paduan tradition: Fabricius ab Aquapendente, Harvey’s teacher, and Fallopius, Fabricius’ teacher.

            I then characterize Harvey’s conception of anatomy as presented in the Prelectiones anatomie universalis, his lecture notes on anatomy for the Lumleian Lectures (1616-1626). I describe how strikingly different Harvey’s understanding of anatomy is in comparison with those others discussed. Instead of a skill of hand and eye on the one hand, and a skill of the mind on the other, Harvey’s anatomy integrates the goal of scientific anatomy, to find the causes of the parts, with the methods of historical anatomy. Thus, for Harvey, anatomy is a skilled ability—what he calls a facultas—which allows the trained and experienced anatomist to generate knowledge: it is a skill of hand, eye, and mind, all together and all at once. 

            Turning to historiography, I argue that Roger French’s (1994) account of Harvey’s epistemology as employing a ‘principle of limited explanation’ greatly misunderstands Harvey’s unified conception of anatomy. Harvey does not, pace French, emphasize observational knowledge above causal knowledge, but rather that observation and causal inference are fundamentally tied together. 

            I conclude with some thoughts on the place of anatomy in our understanding of early modern natural philosophy.


Perrault, Duverney, and Animal Mechanics
Anita Guerrini
, Oregon State University

            It is indicative of the less than canonical status of Claude Perrault (1613-1688) that he is often mistaken for his brother Charles (1628-1703), the author of the Mother Goose tales.  Early in his career, Claude Perrault did not look like a promising candidate for the new science.  A graduate of the conservative Paris Medical Faculty, Perrault followed a resolutely conventional medical path for the first twenty years of his career.  He served the Paris Medical Faculty as an examiner and a professor of physiology.  He apparently had a medical practice, although little is known about it.  By the 1660s, he frequented the scientific salons of Montmor and the Abbé Bourdelot.  But it was almost certainly his brother’s close relationship with the Royal minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert rather than his own scientific talents that led to Claude Perrault’s appointment to the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1666.  He quickly justified this appointment with an energetic research program on the natural history of animals that included the dissection and vivisection of dozens of animals, and resulted in the publication of the two volumes of Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire naturelle des animaux, published in 1671 and 1676.  Perrault wrote many of the entries in these volumes, including the preface which set forth his (and the Academy’s) resolutely particularist natural history that viewed each animal as an individual and refused to generalize or classify in any way.  To observe and point out the “particularitez” that set each individual apart from another was one of the main purposes of natural history.   At the same time, these volumes displayed the Academy’s experiments and demonstrations on some of the most prominent issues in contemporary physiology, including the circulation of the blood, digestion, and respiration, revealing a version of the mechanical philosophy that owed more to Galileo than to Descartes.

            Although Perrault was a mechanist, he retained at least some of the ideas he had learned in the Paris Faculty of Medicine.  He had long accepted the circulation (which the Faculty had finally allowed to be defended in 1663), but he continued to believe that blood was formed in the liver.  Although his fellow Academician Jean Pecquet had famously demonstrated in his 1651 work Experimenta nova anatomica that the thoracic duct carried what was thought to be chyle from the lacteal veins to the heart to be made into blood, Perrault retained an older view that the lacteals drained into the liver for the purpose of sanguification.  Perrault and Pecquet often dissected together at the Academy.  But Perrault’s views, and not Pecquet’s, were published in the Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire naturelle des animaux, and when Pecquet died in 1674, Perrault sought an anatomist for the Academy with views that more closely coincided with his own.

            Perrault found this anatomist in the precocious Joseph-Guichard Duverney (1648-1730), who had come to Paris from the medical faculty at Avignon and who regularly dissected for Bourdelot’s salon before he was out of his teens.  Perrault praised Duverney in the “Avertissement” to the 1676 Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire naturelle des animaux for “furnishing to these descriptions a good part of the most curious particularities that are reported in them.”   Duverney wrote the final description in these volumes, that of the tortoise, which detailed his ideas about respiration and showcased several experiments the Academy had performed.

            Perrault was equally concerned with mechanics as with anatomy, and the essays that comprised first three volumes of his Essais de physique, published in 1680, considered such varied topics as his atomistic theory of matter, the nature of sound, the circulation of sap in plants, animal mechanism, the nature of the senses, and the function of particular organs of the body.  The final volume, published shortly before Perrault’s death in 1688, continued some of these themes and added his account of the Academy’s blood transfusion experiments in the 1660s, which had not previously been published.

            This paper will look at the collaboration of Perrault and Duverney in the 1670s and 1680s, with a particular focus on two topics, respiration and hearing and the ear.  I will compare Duverney’s 1676 account of respiration to Perrault’s in the 1680 Essais de physique, and Perrault’s 1680 account of hearing and the ear to Duverney’s Traité de l’organe  de l’ouïe of 1683.   I wish to examine the social circumstances of their collaboration as well as the development of a distinctively Parisian style of anatomical investigation and physiological theory.  The Paris Academy was founded on an ideal of collaboration and anonymity; while this ideal had begun to crumble by 1676 (no authors appeared on the title page of the 1671 Mémoires, but Perrault appeared as “complier” in 1676), the relationship of Perrault and Duverney gives a particular example of the negotiation of credit in this setting.  Duverney was generally recognized as the best anatomist in Europe, a worthy successor to Jean Riolan the younger (1580-1657), but he was not merely the operator to Perrault the natural philosopher.  Perrault had trained in the Paris Faculty of Riolan and Gui Patin, while Duverney had gained much of his knowledge of animal form and function by doing, duplicating the work of Steno, de Graaf, and others.  Examining their relative roles will highlight the differences a generation made in the application of the mechanical philosophy to the animal economy and the places of theory and dissection in the creation of knowledge.


Mysteries of Living Corpuscles: Atomism and the Origin of Life in Sennert, Gassendi and Kircher
Hiro Hira
i, Radboud University

            This paper aims to spotlight some important, but neglected, aspects of early modern interactions between matter theories and the life sciences. It will trace the ways in which atomistic or corpuscular modes of reasoning were adopted to explain the origin of life. To that end, I will examine three seventeenth-century natural philosophers, Daniel Sennert (1572–1637), Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) and Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680). Through the analysis of their discussions on the minute constitutive parts of living beings (plants, animals and human beings) as living corpuscles, I will inquire into the exchange of ideas among those who advocated “non-mechanist” or “vitalistic” types of corpuscular philosophy. This paper’s ultimate goal is to shed light on the role of bio-medical ideas in seventeenth-century natural philosophy.?

            1. Sennert and Italian Medical Corpuscularism
The first section will address the case of Daniel Sennert, the professor of medicine at the Lutheran University of Wittenberg. Sennert has recently been drawing the keen attention of historians. Going beyond his traditional regard as one of early proponents of atomism in the seventeenth century, a careful revision of his entire work has begun. In the fields of “chymistry” (chemistry and alchemy) and corpuscular philosophy, his role as a major source for Robert Boyle (1627-1691), has been set in a fresh light. Sennert’s theory of the soul, in which Aristotelian hylomorphism and Democritean atomism interact, has also been the subject of recent studies. Moreover, the relationship between embryological preformationism and the theory of monads has made some specialists of G.W. Leibniz (1646–1716) consider Sennert seriously as a key figure, otherwise very little explored in the history of philosophy.
            Indeed Sennert’s work encompassed the cluster of issues raised at the crossroads of matter theories and the life sciences in the early seventeenth century. Among these issues, the origin of life appeared to be one of the most prominent debates. This question was also intimately connected to a widely accepted belief in spontaneous generation. Sennert wrote a treatise precisely on this subject, entitled On the Spontaneous Generation of Living Beings (De spontaneo viventium ortu) and included in his masterpiece, Physical Memories (Hypomnemata physica) (Frankfurt, 1636). There Sennert produced a striking interpretation of the origin of life, based on his idea of ensouled atoms or living corpuscles.
            This section will describe the intellectual and historical context of this idea and will reveal that Sennert was heavily influenced by an Italian medical current of the late sixteenth century. This current, where a corpuscular perspective was developed, was represented by Fortunio Liceti (1577–1657), who was a professor of philosophy at the University of Padua and friend of Galileo Galileo (1564–1642).

            2. Molecules as Seeds in Gassendi
The second section will turn to the case of French atomist Pierre Gassendi. In his endeavor to revive Epicurean atomism in a Christianized form, he promoted the idea of molecules as the “seeds” (semina) of natural things, including living beings. For him, these molecules have two hallmarks: 1) they were formed by God in the Creation of the world as aggregates of primordial atoms having only figure, magnitude and internal mobility; and 2) they were endowed with special faculties such as “knowledge” (scientia) and “diligence” (industria) so as to ensure the establishment of well-ordered structures in natural things. Gassendi’s idea was not a simple adaptation of the ancient atomist Lucretius’s theory of “seeds of things” (semina rerum). It was also heavily indebted to the Renaissance concept of seeds, which stemmed from the Platonic metaphysical cosmology of Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), and which was developed in the tradition of Paracelsian chymical philosophy. Needless to say, in the latter current, the Danish Paracelsian Petrus Severinus (1540/42–1602) played a significant role by assembling a synthesis, which can be called his “philosophy of seeds.”
            After describing these integral elements of Gassendi’s idea of molecules as the seeds of things, its application to the realms of living beings will be examined. Gassendi’s eventual debt to Sennert’s work, especially the latter’s idea of living corpuscles, will be a major problem to be discussed.

            3. Kircher and His Corpuscles of Life
The third and final section will attack the case of a Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher. A friend of Gassendi, Kircher gained enormous notoriety through his long-term activities in the central Jesuit institution, the Collegio Romano, his extensive network of correspondence and his prolific publications. His work provoked both admiration and suspicion in the Republic of Letters and attracted the keen attention of leading minds such as Gassendi, Boyle and the young Leibniz. In his works, especially in his geo-cosmic encyclopedia, Mundus Subterraneus (Amsterdam, 1664–1665), Kircher addressed the origin of life along with his natural-philosophical interpretation of the Creation of the world by developing a corpuscular perspective. For him, the problem of the origin of life was intimately connected to complex but related questions on birth, formation and generation, such as spontaneous generation, contagious diseases, the cause of colors and figures in natural things, the origin of fossils and the Creation of the world. Like Gassendi’s, his interpretation heavily depended on the concept of seeds borrowed from the tradition of Renaissance chymical philosophy with other prominent elements of Paracelsianism such as the three principles of all things (Salt, Sulfur and Mercury).
            This section will examine Kircher’s discussions on the origin of life, in which a singular corpuscular interpretation was developed, and will inquire into the connection between his ideas and Sennert’s and Gassendi’s speculations on living corpuscles.


Medicine, Philosophy and the Scientific Revolution
Dolores Iorizzo
, University College London

     Reappraisals of the 'scientific revolution' vary widely since different kinds of philosophers and historians of science offer competing accounts of natural philosophy in the 17th century.  Mainstrean philosophers of science have tended to focus on epistemological problems of Cartesian dualism, rationalism vs. empiricism, or the complexities of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton.  Intellectual historians of science have aimed to capture the social, political and religious contexts of the age, often casting doubt upon the very notion of a 'Scientific Revolution'.  Historians of medicine usually argue that the 'new science' created a ‘crisis in theory’ in its challenge to Galenism.  It wreaked havoc within the medical profession, especially at institutional level, since it demanded a refashioning of medical theory and practice, the nature of disease, the treatment of patients, and the training of Learned Doctors.  Social Historians often claim that the ‘new science’ had no impact on the practice of medicine or the daily lives of common folk, since Learned Doctors had to compete in a medical marketplace of practitioners that included astrologers, empirics, apothecaries, barber-surgeons, midwives, quacks, mountebanks, wise-women, and witches.  It may seem artificial to separate these different approaches, since often there is overlap in any single interpretation, but it clearly demonstrates that starting-points matter.  Each perspective emphasises only a particular aspect of the ‘new science’.  So we are faced with a demanding challenge of how best to create a historiography which cuts across these disciplines and opens new ground for evaluating the relation of medicine to natural philosophy in the Scientific Revolution.

            Recent work on the history and philosophy of medicine has profitably integrated cross- disciplinary approaches and uncovered unexpected results.  For instance, research by Smith and Manning on Descartes' embryology and biology; Lennox and McCasky on Harvey's Aristotelianism; Clericuzio on Boyle's iatrochemistry; Corneanu on regimens of the mind in Boyle and Locke; Bertoloni Meli on Malpighi's anatomy, experimentation, and disease,; Klestinec on Renaissance dissection practices;  Pomata and Sirasi on historia and medicine ;  Webster and Shackelford on Paracelcus and Severinus, have all challenged traditional readings and reshaped our understanding of what was important to early modern natural philosophers and physicians.  Long constrained by a historiography which favoured discoveries in astronomy and mathematical physics, it is now respectable to turn ones attention to medicine as an important source for the 'new science'.

            Few would dispute the claim that central figures of the Scientific Revolution, such as Harvey, Boyle, Hooke, Locke, Descartes and Leibniz, were preoccupied with medical concerns, such as health, disease, grey hair, good teeth, blood, air, respiration, generation and corruption, animal locomotion, heat and cold, ensoulment, matter theory, animal or innate spirits, and the prolongation of life.  Yet, Francis Bacon, the so-called founder of the 'new science' is commonly missing from this canonical list.  Bacon's preoccupation with medicine is not usually seen as relevant to his revolutionary scientific method in the New Organon, or his vision of an enlightened scientific society in The Advancement of Learning, Great Instauration, and New Atlantis.  Despite the fact that Bacon repeatedly claims that his natural philosophy is 'for the sake of' medicine, his medical philosophy has been largely ignored.  A corrective is long overdue.  Just as Manning has reshaped our way of thinking about how to read Descartes buy taking seriously his claim that the "preservation of health has been the whole time the principle aim of my studies" (AT IV, 329), so too should our interpretations of Bacon reflect the fact that he saw medicine as the ultimate goal of natural philosophy.  

            I will argue that Bacon's philosophy of medicine is not only important to his scientific method, but pivotal to his programme of the 'new science' that is taken up by the early Royal Society.  I provide the early results of a larger research project on 'Bacon's Medical Philosophy and its importance for Early Royal Society Experiments'.  My principle aim in this paper is to lay the ground for an analysis of Bacon's medical philosophy, speculative and practical, which encompasses his medicine of the mind and medicine of the body, interpreted within the larger cultural and historical context of Renaissance and Early Modern medical reform.  Although my ultimate aim will be to demonstrate the importance of Bacon for medical experiments of the Oxford Physiologists in the 1640's (contra Frank), and early experiments at the Royal Society in the 1660's, these results will come later in the project. 

            I begin with a claim that Bacon's preoccupation with medicine and medical reform set out in De Augmentis Scientiarum should be read within the wider context of Renaissance and Early Modern medical reformers who attacked the 'errors' and 'uncertainty' of medicine, especially Erasmus, Agrippa, Paracelcus, Montaigne, Severinus, Harvey and Descartes.  Second, I argue that Bacon's medical reforms aim to 'restore' not reject ancient wisdom.  Bacon does not reject Aristotle, but rather discards dead scholastic Aristotelianism as a 'non-active' natural philosophy.  Following the work of Rees and Shackelford, I argue that Bacon's restoration of ancient wisdom is principally indebted both to Aristotle's biology and natural histories (especially De Generatione et Corruptione, Historia Animalium and Parva Naturalia)  and the Hippocratic Corpus.  Bacon champions their method of direct observation, but faults Aristotle and Hippocrates for not pushing nature far enough to reveal hidden secrets via experimentation.  The empirical methodology of Aristotle's biology and Hippocrates 'case studies' is extended by Bacon into practices of historia which include 'observation and experiment' that are most evident in his 'experimental natural histories'.

            In the final section of the paper I argue that Bacon, like Harvey, was engaged in resurrecting and transforming an ancient research agenda by re-writing major treatises of Aristotle in an early modern 'new science' context.  Although Bacon's rewriting of Aristotle's Organon is obvious in his New Organon, it is less obvious that Bacon's History of Life and Death is an early modern re-working of Aristotle's Parva Naturalia (especially De Longitudine et Brevitate Vitae, De Juventute et Senectute, De Vita et Morte, De Respiratione)).   I propose an interpretation of Bacon that dovetails with Cunningham's reading of Harvey in The Resurrection of the Anatomical Projects of the Ancients, and argue that both Harvey and Bacon were engaged in similar projects.  Bacon's History of Life and Death demonstrates how the ultimate aim of his Great Instauration comes to fruition in a medical experimental natural history that fuels an 'active natural philosophy' dedicated to the reformation of medicine, the prolongation of life and the greatest benefit to mankind.


The Practical Intellect: Some Contributions of Renaissance Surgeons
Cynthia Klestinec
, Miami University (Ohio)

           With its two parts, ars and prudentia, the scheme of the practical intellect has been used to underwrite the early modern distinction between speculative and practical knowledge, visible in discussions of many major figures of the Scientific Revolution, and to establish the linkage between speculative knowledge and causes, on the one hand, and practical knowledge and experience on the other. In the sixteenth century, the practical intellect received new and considerable attention. This is generally explained according to pressures to reassess the medieval classification ofknowledge—the Aristotelian ideal of speculative knowledge was confronted by the practical life prioritized by humanists. Rather than attribute this renewedinterest in the practical intellect solely to a humanist reappraisal of thetrivium and quadrivium, the medieval classification of knowledge, this paper draws attention to a debate between learned surgeons and empiric-surgeons. This debate reveals the problems that attended claims to practical knowledge and the new distinctions that emerged around a surgeon’s skill, technique, and competence. This debate took place in the streets, shops and print of sixteenth-century Venice, and engaged physicians, surgeons and empirics. Inthis paper, I will parse the debate in order to show first that anatomical knowledge and experience could become a liability for a learned practitioner and secondly, that learned surgeons developed the practical intellect, ars in particular, by drawing on language associated with the world of artisans and the arts. This suggests that the more elaborate treatment of the practical intellect came as a response to new forces in the medical marketplace, especially empirics.


Galenism in the seventeenth century
Gideon Manning
, Caltech

            As we look to integrate the history of medicine with the history of science and philosophy, we must confront the absence of Galenism from the latter disciples.  There are many possible explanations for this absence, the most obvious being that the history of medicine has traditionally not been of much interest to historians of science and philosophy, but for the seventeenth century two further reasons present themselves.  First, as Owesi Temkin noticed, Galenism became “submerged” under the catchall label “the ancients” during the seventeenth century.  Thus, Galenism is not discussed in the seventeenth century because it is not named as a self-standing and still relevant intellectual and institutional movement.  Second, as historians skeptical of labels like “the ancients” have added specificity to the rhetorical excesses and omissions of the early moderns, these historians have had to make choices.  The choice to take Aristotle and Aristotelianism as the exemplar “ancient” sect has de facto pushed Galenism into the background.

            In this paper I will introduce the topic of Galenism’s absence from our histories and make a case for greater emphasis on Galenism in discussions of the seventeenth century.  My strategy will be to consider what Galenism adds to several areas of ongoing research among historians of early modern natural philosophy.  Specifically, I will object to the choice of taking Aristotle and Aristotelianism as the exemplar ancient sect.  While there is much to be said in support of this choice in the case of Italy or among the Jesuits, the example of Tudor England, from which Harvey and Bacon both emerge, suggests that Galen and Galenism were at the center of intellectual and intuitional life in a way Aristotle was not.  Further, I will claim this suggests that speaking of an Aristotelian-Galenic synthesis in the seventeenth century, where Galen and physicians are represented as using Aristotle and natural philosophy to found medical practice, does not accurately present the relationship between medicine, science and philosophy.  Time permitting I will also hint at the relevance of Galenism for themes such as: (1) self-presentation and the persona of the innovator, (2) conceptions of Nature, (3) disputes about method and the model of mathematical certainty, (4) anatomy and functional explanation, (5) controlled experimentation, (6) the demand for empirically testable claims, (7) resistance to essentialism, (8) the need for theoretically informed arts, (9) obstacles to mechanism and (10) vernacular outreach.


The Aristotelian Problemata and Late-Renaissance Medical Philosophy
Craig Martin
, Oakland University

            Late-Renaissance intellectual debate often involved attempts to change or defend the status of particular disciplines. The hierarchy of subjects was frequently disputed as leading intellectual figures attempted to raise the status of their particular fields. Just as this was true for mixed mathematics, it was also true for medicine. A number of physicians attempted to promote the status of medicine by defining it as part of natural philosophy, even though some philosophers and humanists insisted that medicine was an art not a scientia. This effort to raise medicine’s status is well known for the field of anatomy, where its practitioners, drawing from ancient sources, increasingly presented themselves as engaging in a proper scientia during the second half of the sixteenth century. For example, Andreas Vesalius advocated anatomy as natural philosophy, perhaps inspired by Galen’s methodological treatise, De anatomicis administrandis, which made a similar claim. Later in the century, Girolamo Fabrici used public anatomies in Padua to investigate topics of natural philosophy.

            Links between medicine and natural philosophy extended beyond anatomy, as physicians and philosophers alike investigated dietetics and temperaments. Pietro Pomponazzi examined in detail the subject of digestion in his commentary on Meteorology IV, blurring the lines between philosophical and medical knowledge. Francisco Vallés wrote a comprehensive tome that aimed to reconcile disagreements between philosophers and physicians on numerous physiological topics in his Controversiae medicarum et philosopharum. While Vallés’s work undermined distinctions between medical and philosophical knowledge, Girolamo Cardano went so far as to claim that medical knowledge was more certain than natural philosophy, which he claimed derives causes from effects, while medicine infers effects from causes.

            As medical treatises and philosophical treatises, such as Vallés’s and Cardano’s, made a greater attempt to further natural philosophy through medical knowledge, Aristotle, still extremely dominant in natural philosophy, grew in importance for the field of medicine during the sixteenth century. A number of Aristotle’s writings, such as his zoological works and Meteorology IV, were potentially relevant to medicine. The sixteenth century also witnessed the rise in the number and influence of commentaries on the Aristotelian Problemata. Interpretations of the Problemata became a touchstone for those who wanted to blur the boundaries between Aristotelian philosophy and erudite medicine. For example, Cardano argued that it was possible to use medical principles to investigate issues of natural philosophy that were not directed toward medical purposes, and cited the third book of the Problemata, which concerns drunkenness, as an example of such an investigation. Gabriele Falloppio (1523-62), a professor of surgery at Padua best known for his anatomical researches and the eponymous tubes, integrated material about teeth from the Problemata in a commentary on the Galenic De ossibus.

            The emergence or reemergence of the Problemata as a source for medical and philosophical commentary in the late sixteenth century stemmed from the values of medical humanism that prized ancient sources and philological investigations. Learned physicians integrated their interest in the Problemata with reconsiderations of Hippocratic writings and their broader knowledge of the Galenic corpus. The best example of this integration is found in Lodovico Settala’s 1200-page commentary on the Problemata, which was printed in the first decades of the seventeenth century. Although philological and historical investigations form a significant part of Settala’s considerations of the Problemata, they were part of his goal of applying Aristotle’s writing to issues of medicine and philosophy, including importantly the relation between temperament and the human soul. Settala described his work as flowing “across the banks into the open field of philosophy and philology.”

            Rising interest in the Problemata occurred simultaneously with the development of an Aristotelian medicine that was at times at odds with long-standing Galenic views that were often transmitted in Avicenna’s Canon, still the most important book for university instruction of medicine. The medical reading of Aristotle also coincided with the growth of Hippocratism and humanist medicine in general, which grew from the new editions and translations printed by the Aldine press in the 1520s. While humanist scholars debated over the nature of translation and the interpretation of the Problemata, medical authors consulted the text and corrected medieval interpretations. Humanists’ inquiries into ancient writing changed learned medicine in the first decades of the sixteenth century, as new texts were discovered, edited, and diffused. Ancient sources grew in value, while medieval sources were discounted. The Problemata was particularly valuable because of its links to the Hippocratic text Airs, Waters, Places, that despite being available in Latin from the fifth or sixth centuries, had no commentary tradition until the 1570s. Correspondences between the Problemata and Airs, Waters, Places made the two texts useful for forging considerations of temperaments and the effects of climate on health into knowledge that could be seen as appropriately authoritative for both philosophy and medicine. Moreover, the correspondences between the texts suggested that the blurring of boundaries between philosophy and medicine had its roots in the writings of the most ancient authoritative authors of those respective fields, Aristotle and Hippocrates. The rise of Aristotelian medicine coincided with the climbing importance of Hippocrates. Settala’s belief that Aristotle’s Problemata borrowed from Hippocrates underpinned not just his interpretations of psychology and human generation, issues of natural philosophy rather than medicine, but also his views on problems specifically about health and disease.


A Mutual Divide: Experimental Anatomists vs. Speculative Cartesians in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Medicine
Evan Ragland
, University of Alabama Huntsville

            From their first contact with Descartes philosophical anatomy, prominent Dutch anatomists constructed a distinction between the experimental, laborious method of proper anatomists and the a priori speculations of Descartes and his followers. Strikingly, this distinction was embraced as salutary by some of Descartes' most vocal and trusted disciples. By analyzing the debate from both sides, from letters, tracts, disputations, and books, this paper reconstructs the development of the main features of this debate, and sheds light on early modern disciplinary boundaries, the fortunes of Cartesianism and Harvey's work, and the development of experimentalist cultures. The analysis in this paper also connects with recent discussions of the much more global distinction between experimental and speculative philosophy emergent in the later seventeenth century.


Scepticism and the clinical anecdote
Alan Salter
, University of Sydney

            Early modern England saw the emergence and eventual frequent appearance of the clinical anecdote in the writings of learned physicians. Such anecdotes,
drawn from the authors' own experience or the remembered stories of other
physicians, would typically be inserted into a demonstration of a general
claim such as an experiment or an account of a commonly observed
pathological condition. Their prevalence, strictly ordered presence and
constancy of literary form however suggest that such anecdotes were more
than casual additions to a text, for illustrative effect alone. It is my
contention that they had a specific and tacitly agreed intention, to express
scepticism as to the possibility of certainty in general claims of doctrine
or experience. Although this English scepticism lacked the formality of a
well-developed epistemological system it shows evidence of having been
grounded in the neo-Pyrrhonism of Montaigne and Sanches and described by
Popkin in his celebrated study of the genre. In my paper I shall give a
brief survey of the anecdotal form, discuss its purpose and justify my claim
as to its provenance.


Transplantation and Corpuscular Identity in Paracelsian Vital Philosophy
Jole Shackelford, University of Minnesota

            Key question: What kind of matter theory does Paracelsian “vital philosophy” (philosophia vitalis) support?

            Recent studies of mechanical philosophy, corpuscular materialism, and alchemy in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe have clouded the once-clean schematic paradigm shift from scholastic medieval Aristotelian matter theory, heavily invested in the concept of substantial form, to  variants of neo-classical atomism, which formed the basis of Robert Boyle’s corpuscular hypothesis and the roots of modern chemistry.  Historians of science have revealed a continuity in materialist atomism from medieval alchemy through the seventeenth century and suggested a conceptual fusion with the vitalistic matter theory of the Paracelsians as background to seventeenth-century corpuscular matter theory.  Studies of late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century approaches to atomism have revealed an unsettled but fertile matrix of atomist ideas, from Bruno’s monads to Galileo’s point-atoms and Nicholas Hill’s gropings toward an atomic hypothesis.  If Paracelsian vitalism entered into this turn-of-the-century brew, from which the corpuscular ideas of Gassendi, Charleton, and Boyle emerged as models for the matter theory of a new materialist philosophy, in what form did it appear and why would it be at all appealing to hard-nosed, anti-Aristotelian theorists, who in general rejected vitalists’ claims? 

            In this paper I shall attempt to characterize the vitalist matter theory of Petrus Severinus, who interpreted Paracelsus quite closely and sought to generalize and explain Paracelsian conceptions in a way that made sense to formally-educated natural philosophers.  I shall use Severinus’ conception of transplantatio (transplantation), which he used pointedly as an alternative to transformatio and transmutatio, as a tool to access Severinus’ matter theory, which was constructed mainly around his concept of semina.  I suggest that semina differ significantly from the atoms of classical Greek origin in that they are intrinsically temporal, which supports a conception of vital philosophy.  Vital philosophy can be understood as fundamentally a physiological conception, which is dynamic.  As dynamic, material units, semina are characterized by developmental forms and can be characterized as organic “vital” corpuscles.  These contrast with Epicurean and Democritean atoms, which are extrinsically temporal, support what Severinus deemed philosophia mortalis or anatomia mortalis, a view of material nature as essentially devoid of life.  Such a view is not characteristic of physiology, but rather morphology, with the assumption that forms are stable, even static.  Such a static conception underlies the ideal of materialist corpuscles that were part of what has been called mechanical philosophy in early modern science.  The main attributes of such corpuscles were to possess size, shape, and impenetrability and not to “behave” in any characteristic manner, which would suggest soul or volition.  Behavior logically presupposes a temporality, a plan for material change.  The fact that even the relatively austere corpuscular hypothesis of Gassendi and Boyle attributed to fundamental material particles some measure of autonomous developmental possibility reflects the unsuitability of a totally de-vitalized conception of nature to explain observed phenomena.  A key distinction between Paracelsian semina, which were studied and admired by Gassendi and Boyle, and the atomi of the ancients was their intrinsic temporality, which constitutes a fundamentally distinct way of looking at the world that hearks back to Aristotelian conceptions of nature rather than looking forward to the soul-less conceptions of modern materialism. 


G. W. Leibniz and Early Modern Medical Eudaimonism
Justin E. H. Smith
, Concordia University, Montreal

            Arguably, where an early modern philosopher places medicine in the hierarchy of human endeavors is not an afterthought, but rather at once a positioning of his own philosophical views. Descartes had thought of medicine as the art of maintaining health, and understood health in turn as “undoubtedly the chief good and the foundation of all the other goods in this life.”[1] G. W. Leibniz in contrast will prefer to describe medicine’s importance in more moderate terms, maintaining that health is only the second most valuable thing in human life, after virtue, and that for that reason medicine is the second most important endeavor, following philosophical theology.  Leibniz’s demotion of medicine from the supreme position in which Descartes and the Cartesian school of medical philosophy had placed it, may be understood simultaneously  as an expression of the view that not everything can be analyzed in terms of the movement and impact of bodies, and that for this reason, as Leibniz puts it in another context, Descartes remained stuck in the antechamber of philosophy. 

            It is noteworthy that with respect to his training and his vocation, Leibniz, unlike a great number of other philosophers of his era, was not himself a physician. Leibniz frequently underlined this fact as the cause of his uniquely lucid and well-founded views in medical matters. Thus he wrote somewhat boastfully in his On the New American Antidysenteric of 1695–96 that “nothing is more precious to men than health” (thus deviating from his more typical placement of health in the number-two spot). Next he adds: “This may be said all the more fervently by me, who is not a doctor, since I will be less suspect of seeking to advance my own usefulness.” [2] Leibniz will repeat this claim of non-partisanship throughout his debate with late-period debate with Georg Ernst Stahl. In the end, for Leibniz it is exactly the sort of disinterestedness he himself represents that would ideally reign as the prevailing spirit among practicing physicians, and in this respect it is his own position as a non-physician that ought in his view to serve as a model for physicians. More concretely, it is the organization of religious orders, and thus of a career devoted to morality and the love of God, that would best serve, Leibniz thinks, as a model for the organization of medicine, “for,” as he writes in the Directions Pertaining to the Institution of Medicine of 1671, “members of religious orders are disinterested.”[3]

            But why was Leibniz so interested in being disinterested in medicine? In this paper, I shall argue that the German philosopher was a representative par excellence of a largely forgotten tradition, which I am calling 'medical eudaimonism', and which saw medicine as entirely integral to the project of philosophy to the extent that (i) it was the key to health and longevity, and thus to the realization of the good life; and (ii) it was conceived as including rules of diet, hygiene, and bodily comportment, and to this extent was seen as nothing less than the corporeal flip-side, so to speak, of ethics. I will argue, finally, that, as much recent scholarship attests, from an initial interest in the classical philosophical problem of the mind-body connection in early modern philosophy, one is invariably compelled to take up early modern theories of the passions (as the field in which this connection most aggressively demands recognition), and from here, in turn, scholars are willy-nilly compelled by the concerns of early modern philosophers themselves to take an interest in the history of medicine, and to acknowledge its central importance to the history of philosophy.

[1] René Descartes, Oeuvres de Descartes, ed. Charles Adam and Paul Tannery, Paris, J. Vrin, 1970, VI, 61-62.
[2] G. W. Leibniz, Gothofredii Guilelmii Leibnitii Opera Omnia, ed. Louis Dutens, Geneva, De Tournes, 176, II 2, 111.
[3] See Justin E. H. Smith, Divine Machines: Leibniz and the Sciences of Life, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2011, Appendix 1, “Directions Pertaining to the Institution of Medicine,” § 50, 284. This text was previously published in German in a critical edition by Fritz Hartmann and Matthias Krüger, Studia Leibnitiana Sonderheft 8, 1 (1976): 40-68.


Epigenesis and/as Spinozism in Diderot’s biological project
Charles Wolfe
, Ghent University

            Denis Diderot’s natural philosophy is deeply and centrally ‘biologistic’: as it emerges between the 1740s and 1780s, thus right before the appearance of the term ‘biology’ as a way of designating a unified science of life (McLaughlin 2002), his project is motivated by the desire both to understand the laws governing organic beings and to emphasize, more ‘philosophically’, the uniqueness of organic beings within the physical world as a whole. This is apparent both in the metaphysics of vital matter he puts forth in works such as D’Alembert’s Dream (1769) and the more empirical concern with the mechanics of life in his manuscript Elements of Physiology, on which he worked during the last twenty years of his life. This ‘biologism’ obviously presents the interpreter of Diderot with some difficulties, notably as regards his materialism, given that contemporary forms of materialism have on the contrary strongly rejected notions of emergence, vitalism, teleology and any concepts appealing to unique, irreducible features of organisms. In response, some have described him as a ‘holist’ (Kaitaro 1997) while others have emphasized his materialist, naturalist project (Bourdin 1998, Wolfe 2009). In what follows I examine a little-known aspect of Diderot’s articulation of his biological project: his statement in favour of epigenesis within the short but suggestive Encyclopédie article “Spinosistes”. Diderot was, of course, a partisan of epigenesis (the developmental-biological theory opposed to preformation, according to which beings develop by successive adjunction of layers of matter), but why include a statement in favour of a particular biological (or developmental) theory within an entry dealing with a philosopher, Spinoza, who does not seem to have been concerned at all with the specific properties of living beings, how they grow from embryonic to developed states, and so on? By trying to answer this question I also try and locate Diderot’s biological project in relation to what will become, in the years after his death, the project for a science called ‘biology’, with figures such as Treviranus and Lamarck. For it is not clear that the two can be easily correlated or causally linked: Diderot’s ‘epigenetic Spinozism’ is a different conceptual entity from what we find in histories of biology.



Marcus Adams (University of Pittsburgh)
Cameron Brown (Concordia University, Montreal)
Ashley Inglehart (Indiana University Bloomington)
Joel Klein (Indiana University Bloomington)
Juhana Lemetti (University of Helsinki)
Dániel Margócsy (Hunter College, CUNY)
John McCaskey (Stanford University)
Kristin Primus (Princeton University)
Marco Sgarbi (Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies)
Allen Shotwell (Indiana University Bloomington)
Richard Spiegel (McGill University)
Ian Stewart (University of Kings College)
Kathryn Tabb (University of Pittsburgh)

Revised 10/31/12 - Copyright 2010