Empiricist Heresies in Early Modern Medical Thought

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    • Pages : 333 à 344
    • ISBN : 978-90-481-3685-8
    • ISSN : 0929-6425
    • DOI : 10.1007/978-90-481-3686-5_16
    • Date de création : 04-01-2011
    • Dernière mise à jour : 25-02-2015



    Vitalism, from its early modern to its Enlightenment forms (from Glisson and Willis to La Caze and Barthez), is notoriously opposed to intervention into the living sphere. Experiment, quantification, measurement are all ‘vivisectionist’, morally suspect and worse, they alter and warp the ‘life’ of the subject. They are good for studying corpses, not living individuals. This much is well known, and it has disqualified vitalist medicine from having a place in standard histories of medicine, until recent, post-Foucauldian maneuvers have sought to change the situation (but for unrelated, contextualist reasons). What is perhaps more surprising is that if we consider the emergence of medical ‘theory’ as a whole, from Harvey through to Locke and Sydenham, is the presence of a sustained anti-experimentalist line of argument, and this from the ‘empiricist’ (not Cartesian or Boerhaavian rationalist) side. It would seem then that ‘empiricks’, medical empiricists and other protagonists of an ‘embodied empiricism’ are not Boylean experimentalists who seek to map out Nature in its transparency, but deliberately archaic, Hippocratic observers of living bodies.