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Cabanis: Enlightenment and Medical Philosophy in the French Revolution

Martin S. Staum
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 444
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    A physician and spokesman for the French Ideologues, Pierre-JeanGeorges Cabanis (1757-1808) stands at the crossroads of several influential developments in modern culture--Enlightenment optimism about human perfectibility, the clinical method in medicine, and the formation and adaptation of liberal social ideals in the French Revolution. This first major study of Cabanis in English traces the influences of these developments on his thought and career.

    Originally published in 1980.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5702-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-19)

    At a session of the new Class of Moral and Political Sciences of the French National Institute in 1796, the physician and philosopher Pierre-Jean-Georges Cabanis exhorted his colleagues to establish the “science of man and society.” In doing so, he claimed, they would follow the ancient Delphic injunction “Know thyself!” According to Cabanis, the new republican government of the Directory now created favorable circumstances for the transmission of the message of the “semaphore of science and reason” throughout Europe and to future generations.¹ Thus, a member of the intellectual elite of the Directory in France reaffirmed the urgency of a...

  5. CHAPTER I The Late Enlightenment: Chain of Being, Chain of Truths
    (pp. 20-48)

    Separating the influence of the philosophes at the Auteuil salon and of physicians in clinical practice on Cabanis’s thought is at best an artificial exercise. The Enlightenment and medical components in Cabanis’s education were concurrent. In fact, the most complete Enlightenment anticipation of Cabanis’s thought, in the works of Diderot, is itself as much the product of medical theories as of Encyclopedist aspirations. Yet, for analytical purposes, I shall structure my discussion around the evident polarities in Cabanis’s viewpoint—his scientific and Enlightenment quest for uniformity, theory, and method against his medical concern for individuality, eccentricity, and exceptional case history....

  6. CHAPTER II The Body as Mechanism
    (pp. 49-71)

    In the medical literature that Cabanis studied, the mind-body problem was as ancient as the temperament theory in the HippocraticCorpusand the physiology of Galen. Yet the medical legacy left to Cabanis involved a complex change in the idea of temperament—from the Greco-Roman theory of humors to a concept focused on the physical sensitivity of the nervous system. Seventeenth-century concepts of mechanism and Newtonian concepts of force began to displace the ancient concern with bodily fluids. These notions developed in two distinct conceptual models, or paradigms, defined as follows: “mechanism,” which stressed the analogy of the body to...

  7. CHAPTER III The Soul and the Vital Principle in Physiology
    (pp. 72-93)

    While the mechanists were assigning strange active forces to living matter, the vitalists, like Descartes, were confining the soul to reason and inventing special “principles” to perform seemingly purposive bodily functions. Just as Descartes had insisted that everything corporeal was mechanical, so the forerunners of vitalism insisted that the soul or its spiritual agents directed all corporeal activities. The late seventeenth-century medical world was filled with concerns of the Iatrophysical school, such as measurement of fluid forces and vessel diameters, and with concerns of the Iatrochemical school, such as acrimony of humors. Against this background, the cantankerous chemist and physician...

  8. CHAPTER IV Methodical Medicine in the Service of Humanity
    (pp. 94-121)

    Sabanis became a full-fledged physician before he aspired to found a science of man. Relating medicine to the other sciences was thus a more immediate problem in his early philosophical writings than the metaphysical issue raised by psycho-physical relationships. His search for a valid medical method could not begin before he had considered existing medical institutions and public health policies. The obstacles to any truly observational medicine were partly the legacy of bookish medical education and partly the ill-defined role of hospitals. After writing about the degree of certainty of medicine, Cabanis became concerned with reforms in medical education and...

  9. CHAPTER V The Natural and Artificial in Society
    (pp. 122-146)

    The outbreak of revolution heightened the enthusiasm of the Auteuil salon for political and institutional reform. Two of Cabanis’s closest friends, the medical student-turned-ethnologist Volney and the mathematician Condorcet, became avid pamphleteers on the organization of provincial assemblies and on the Estates-General, the abuses of privilege, and the need for guarantees of equality before the law and individual liberties. Abbe Siéyès, an occasional guest at Auteuil, denounced aristocracy and demanded a constitutional government with real power for the Third Estate. The electoral assemblies chose Volney, Siéyès, and the lawyer Dominique-Joseph Garat to represent the Third Estate at Versailles, and Garat...

  10. CHAPTER VI The Perils of Revolution and the Rational Organization of Medical Experience
    (pp. 147-165)

    From 1792 to 1795 the heirs of the philosophes could not hope for political and social stability as a context for the establishment of a science of man. Indeed, faced with the defeat of their moderate political program, they had to devote their energies to escaping arrest or surviving in prison. From the dawn of the Republic to the elections of 1798, Cabanis’s philosophical writings overshadowed his political or practical concerns. In the heyday of the radical National Convention, Cabanis and his friends remained on the defensive as they lost positions of power and influence.

    In the tense period after...

  11. CHAPTER VII Sensitivity: Source of ‘Physique’ and ‘Moral’
    (pp. 166-206)

    The Thermidorian Convention consciously sought significant cultural innovation by establishing a Class of Moral and Political Sciences in the unified National Institute of Sciences and Arts. In organizing the Class, the architects of the Institute closely followed the terminology that Condorcet used when he proposed a secondary school curriculum and the formation of a National Society of Sciences and Arts in his education plan of April 1792. The six sections of the Class included the traditional fields of ethics (morale) (now conceived as a science), history, and geography, and also the new disciplines of “analysis of sensations and ideas,” “social...

  12. CHAPTER VIII The Perfectibility of Temperament
    (pp. 207-243)

    The uniform operations of sensitivity opened uncharted fields of the unconscious and established the invariable first principles of morality. Yet the variations of sensitivity were the key to improvement of the human species; this was the future research area of the clinical and abnormal psychologist. Cabanis’s discussion of these variations in theRapportswas a modernized version of the traditional Hippocratic concern for the organic and environmental influences on disease. Lacking evidence of pathogenic microbes, physicians had investigated all possible combinations of atmospheric as well as corporeal constitution. Medical therapists as different as Le Camus and Barthez had agreed that...

  13. CHAPTER IX Approaches to Psychophysiology
    (pp. 244-265)

    While the medical literature on temperament had always encouragedphysique-moralcomparisons, the goals of the Idéologue leaders stimulated parallel efforts by their colleagues. Cabanis himself never created a “school,” but hisRapportshelped provoke a cluster of studies on the power of habit and perfectibility. The same philosophical and medical issues that fascinated Cabanis—the place of man in nature, the usefulness of analytic method in the human sciences, and the irreducibility of life—helped shape the framework of these investigations.

    The younger physicians in the Idéologue circle of Auteuil had a less rigidly unitary view of the organism than...

  14. CHAPTER X In the Public Arena: Healing, Schooling, Governing
    (pp. 266-297)

    From 1796 to 1802, at the height of Cabanis’s philosophical career, he also achieved eminence in both the medical and political worlds. A loyal adherent of the regime of the Directory and an early enthusiast for Bonaparte, he offered characteristically subtle views on the state role in regulating medicine, insuring educational opportunity, and establishing stable institutions.

    Cabanis’s career profited much from the patronage of friends in high places, such as Ginguené, chief of the public education division of the Interior Ministry in 1796. With the removal of hygiene from the curriculum of the central schools and the consequent cancellation of...

  15. CHAPTER XI The Metaphysical Twilight
    (pp. 298-314)

    Sabanis drowned the political sorrows of his final years in a return to intense philosophical activity. Though his creative period ended with the appearance of theRapportsin 1802, in 1803 he prepared a new edition ofDegré de certitude,the essays on public assistance, the note on the guillotine, and the Mirabeau journal. The next year he publishedCoup d’oeilfor the first time and helped edit Condorcet’s complete works. The third edition of theRapportsappeared in May 1805 with Tracy’s analytical index. And from 1805 to 1807 he produced two minor medical works,Observations sur les affections...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 315-370)
  17. Appendix A Correspondences in Ancient Greco-Roman Philosophy and Medicine
    (pp. 371-372)
  18. Appendix B
    (pp. 373-374)
  19. Appendix C
    (pp. 375-376)
  20. Appendix D “Cabanis” Manuscripts of the Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle
    (pp. 377-380)
  21. Appendix E Condensed Outline of Hygiene of J.-N. Hallé
    (pp. 381-382)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 383-418)
  23. Index
    (pp. 419-430)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 431-431)