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News and Announcements: Calls for Papers

Call for Papers (Workshop): Lights and Shadows in Cartesian Medicine

Monday, January 13, 2020  
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Venue: Pisa, 15–16 May

Invited speakers:

Maria CONFORTI (Rome)
Gideon MANNING (Los Angeles)
Franco Aurelio MESCHINI (Lecce)
Andrea STRAZZONI (Erfurt)


As uniquely shaped by Descartes, medicine assumed a new role in the development of early modern natural philosophy. That one-fifth of Descartes’ entire output is dedicated to medicine should be regarded as a testimony to the constant attention he devoted to this subject, which kept him busy throughout his life in a series of anatomical observations and vivisections, visits to anatomical theatres, as well as protracted discussions with contemporary physicians. It is significant, in this regard, that Descartes’ Discours de la Méthode (1637) originally attracted a great deal of attention from learned physicians in the Netherlands and Belgium, such as Henricus Regius (1598–1679) in Utrecht and Vopiscus Fortunatus Plempius (1601–71) in Leuven. Not only is medicine one of the fruits of the tree of philosophy, but it may be used to illuminate Descartes’ methodology, physics, metaphysics (i.e., the mind-body dualism), moral philosophy and theory of emotions.

Notably, the conference will explore four main areas:

  • Textual: devoted to the analysis of Descartes’ 1) sources of medical knowledge, including their intellectual and social setting, and 2) published and manuscripts medical texts, also edited by Cartesian proponents, with an emphasis on the medical texts produced by Cartesian scholars and critics;
  • Philosophical: focused on Descartes’ approach to medical knowledge, especially the ways it befits, contrasts or develops the main strands of his natural philosophy (i.e., blood circulation, psychology, neurophysiology and embryology), other possible topics in this section include the role of medical experimentation and quantification in the seventeenth-century;
  • Exegetical: highlighting the early reception of Descartes’ medical theories, with their success, obscurities and failures (e.g., the explanation of nutrition), the exchanges and collaborations with his contemporaries and proponents, and the paths Cartesian scholars travelled to fill the lacunae in Descartes’ medical knowledge;
  • Legacy: exploring the later reactions of, and opposition to Descartes’ medicine in early modern Europe, and especially in Italy, France and Germany, where Cartesian medicine was subject of academic discussions and polemics.

Proposals are invited in any of the above-mentioned areas from scholars working on any aspect of early modern medicine, philosophy, science and technology, widely construed. Applicants should send a 300-words abstract with a short bibliography, along with a one-page CV, affiliation, and contact information to: specifying the object VivaMente 2020.

Application Deadline: 31 March 2020


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