A Cartesian Case for Circulation

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI:
A Cartesian Case for Circulation

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This chapter focuses on the contributions of Descartes (1596–1650), an unconditional centralist who could imagine a healthy, strong organism only as one ruled by a central power. Thomas Fuchs on Descartes: “Instead of inherent principles, absolute laws that constitute one world of purely mechanical relationships rule over the living and the dead. The consequences of the machine paradigm are the fundamental features of automaticity of organ function, decline of self-movement and its replacement by the reflex.” Descartes was a more successful engineer than Harvey. The new packaging of Harvey's discovery by his colleague Descartes was broadly accepted but there was also some fault-finding.

Keywords: absolute laws; machine paradigm; organ function; mechanical relationships; automaticity

Chapter.  691 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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