Book Series The Age of Descartes, vol. 9

Descartes and Medicine

Problems, Responses and Survival of a Cartesian Discipline

Fabrizio Baldassarri (ed)

  • Pages: 484 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:15 b/w
  • Language(s):English, Italian
  • Publication Year:2023

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59461-3
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59462-0
  • E-book
  • Available

This book explores Descartes’ possible sources, his medical texts and observations, his collaborations and adversaries, and the reception of his medical work in seventeenth-century culture.


Fabrizio Baldassarri is a Marie Sklodowska Curie fellow at Ca’ Foscari Venice. He works on Descartes’ natural philosophy (and natural history), and especially on the application of his method on medicine, botany, and the life sciences. He also works on plants and vegetal life in early modern natural philosophy.


This volume provides a more exhaustive interpretation of René Descartes’ medical views and its reception in the seventeenth century. Filling the gap in the recent scholarship, the contributions in the volume follow four axes: exegetical, textual, philosophical, and contextual. Authors in this book deal with Descartes’ physiology, anatomy, and therapy by reconstructing Cartesian texts, detailing possible medical and philosophical sources, discussing medical collaborations and oppositions, and exploring obscurities and failures in Descartes’ medicine. In laying bare the more promising issues of Cartesian programme and discussing the reception and opposition in the seventeenth century, the volume also uncovers the limitations within his interpretation, ultimately revealing a more nuanced application of his methodology to a field of natural philosophy. While medical studies play a not secondary role in Descartes’ entire work, the volume aims to discuss in detail the importance of medicine as a suitable field to understand Cartesian philosophy from a significant perspective in seventeenth-century Europe.


Fabrizio Baldassarri, Introduction: Lights & Shadows in Descartes's Medicine

Part 1. Descartes's Medical Philosophy: Sources and Texts, Dissections and Reflections

Gideon Manning, Descartes's Cartesian Medicine: Past, Present, and Future

Simone Guidi, Epigenesis and Generative Power in Descartes's Late Scholastic Sources

Jil Muller, Ambroise Paré and René Descartes on Sensation in Amputated Limbs

Annie Bitbol-Hespériès, Anatomical Debates on Hearts and Brains and Philosophical Issues from Descartes's Writing of L'Homme to its Posthumous Publications

Tawrin Baker, The Medical Context of Descartes's Dioptrique

Fabrizio Baldassarri, A Medicine in the Shadows: The Bio-Medical Manuscripts and a Compendium Descartes Never Published

Carmen Schmechel, Fermentation as 'Heat-Rarefaction' and Animal Spirits in Descartes's Medical Philosophy

Lynda Gaudemard, What Descartes's Embryology Tells us about his Dualism

Clément Raymond, From the Animal Instinct to the Mind's Acknowledgment of the (In)Commoda in Descartes

Jan Forsman, Madness and Dream in Descartes's First Meditation

Franco A. Meschini, Malattie e metafisica. La prova patologica (with an abstract in English)

Part 2. Reception and Opposition: Cartesian Medicine and Cartesianism

Erik-Jan Bos, Mercurius Cosmopolita alias Andreas of Habernfeld: The Hermetic Response to Descartes

Benjamin Goldberg, The Rules of Anatomy: On the Empiricisms of Descartes and Harvey

Andrea Strazzoni, The Lost Dictata of Henricus Regius

Daniel Samuel, A British Response to The Passions of the Soul

Mihnea Dobre, Jacques Rohault on Medicine

Elena Rapetti, On Cartesian Embryology: A Debate on Monsters at the Bourdelot Academy

Nabeel Hamid, The Cartesian Physiology of Johann Jakob Waldschmidt

Stefano Gulizia, Cartesianism between Northern Europe, Germany, and the Medici Court: Charting a New Map

Maria Conforti, "Se fusse meno cartesiano lo stimarei molto": Anti-Cartesian Motifs in Italian Medicine

Aaron Spink, Embodied Difference and the Cartesian Soul: Pierre-Sylvain Régis and the Pineal Gland Problem

Laurynas Adomaitis, Beyond Mechanical Life: Biological Processes in the Seventeenth Century