Published on January 27, 2014
Sense and Sensibility in the Long 18th Century History of Science & Technology since 1750 Jason M. Kelly
Aristotle and the Brain • the heart is the center of intelligence and emotion • the heart processes sensation • the brain helps regulate the temperature of the heart Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BCE. The alabaster mantle is a modern addition. Ludovisi Collection, Palazzo Altaemps, Rome. Inv. 8575
Aristotle and the Soul’s Relation to the Body “. . . the soul does not exist without a body and yet is not itself a kind of body. For it is not a body, but something which belongs to a body, and for this reason exists in a body, and in a body of such-and-such a kind.” in other words, the soul is inseparable from the body Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BCE. The alabaster mantle is a modern addition. Ludovisi Collection, Palazzo Altaemps, Rome. Inv. 8575
Aristotle and the Soul’s Relation to the Body There are three degrees of soul: • Nutritive soul (plants) • Sensitive soul (all animals) • Rational soul (human beings) Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BCE. The alabaster mantle is a modern addition. Ludovisi Collection, Palazzo Altaemps, Rome. Inv. 8575
Aristotelianism and the Brain • Often saw brain and heart as physiologically intertwined • Blood was key to transmitting sensation and ideas Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BCE. The alabaster mantle is a modern addition. Ludovisi Collection, Palazzo Altaemps, Rome. Inv. 8575
Galenic Physiology “Natural spirit generated in the liver is carried by venous blood through the interventricular septum of the heart to the left ventricle where, under the influence of air carried to the left ventricle of the heart by the arteria venalis, it is transformed into vital spirit. Carried to the brain via the carotids, vital spirit is transformed by the rete mirabili at the base of the brain (shown hatched) into animal spirits.” Charles Singer, The Evolution of Anatomy (1925), Figure 30.
Rene Descartes (1596-1650) • Mechanism • Automaton • Mind, body, and soul • Pineal Gland After Frans Hals. René Descartes. ca. 1649-1700. oil on canvas. 77.5 x 68.5 cm. Louvre, Paris, France. Inv. 1317.
Rene Descartes (1596-1650) "Although the soul is united to the whole body, its principal functions are, nevertheless, performed in the brain; it is here that it not only understands and imagines, but also feels; and this is effected by the intermediation of the nerves, which extend in the form of delicate threads from the brain to all parts of the body, to which they are attached in such a manner, that we can hardly touch any part of the body without setting the extremity of some nerve in motion. This motion passes along the nerve to that part of the brain which is the common sensorium, as I have sufficiently explained in my 'Treatise on Dioptrics;' and the movements which thus travel along the nerves, as far as that part of the brain with which the soul is closely joined and united, cause it, by reason of their diverse characters, to have different thoughts. And it is these different thoughts of the soul, which arise immediately from the movements that are excited by the nerves in the brain, which we properly term our feelings, or the perceptions of our senses.” —Descartes, Principes de la Philosophie (1644), §169
Descartes, Traité de l' homme (written before 1637 and published in 1662 and 1664) “These men will be composed, as we are, of a soul and a body. First I must describe the body on its own; then the soul, again on its own; and fìnally I must show how these two natures would have to be joined and united in order to constitute men who resemble us. I suppose the body to be nothing but a statue or machine made of earth, which God forms with the explicit intention of making it as much is possible like us. Thus God not only gives it externally the colours and shapes of all the parts of our bodies, but also places inside it all the parts required to make it walk, eat, breathe, and indeed to imitate all those of our functions which can be imagined to proceed from matter and to depend solely on the disposition of our organs. We see clocks, artificial fountains, mills, and other such machines which, although only man-made, have the power to move of their own accord in many different ways. But I am supposing this machine to be made by the hands of God, and so I think you may reasonably think it capable of a greater variety of movements than I could possibly imagine in it, and of exhibiting more artistry than I could possibly ascribe to it.”
LEFT: Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams (BBC, 2013), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rVevX-YXqo | RIGHT: Complimentarius. 16th century. FockeMuseum, Bremen. The automaton, clad in armor was a mechanical greeting-automaton that was installed from the early 17th to the early 19th century in the Schütting (the merchant guild headquarters) in Bremen.
“I desire you to consider, I say, that these functions imitate those of a real man as perfectly as possible and that they follow naturally in this machine entirely from the disposition of the organs-no more nor less than do the movements of a clock or other automaton, from the arrangement of its counterweights and wheels.” L’homme de René Descartes, et la formation du foetus (Paris: Compagnie des Libraires, 1729)
Gender and Sensibility Her fair left arm around a vase she flings, From which the tender plant mimosa springs: Towards its leaves, o’er which she fondly bends, The youthful fair her vacant hand extends With gentle motion, anxious to survey How far the feeling fibres own her sway: The leaves, as conscious of their queen’s command, Successive fall at her approaching hand: Her tender breast with pity seems to pant, And shrinks at every shrinking of the plant. William Hayley, The Triumphs of Temper (1781), Canto V
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