Abstracting from the Soul: The Mechanics of Locomotion

Dennis des Chene

in Genesis Redux

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780226720807
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226720838 | DOI:
Abstracting from the Soul: The Mechanics of Locomotion

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This chapter demonstrates how mechanist physiologists such as Giovanni Borelli and Charles Perrault, who followed René Descartes in taking the machine as the model of intelligibility, nevertheless assumed the existence of an animal soul to supply to the bodily machine its motive force. Borelli and Perrault placed the nature of this animal soul beyond the bounds of their science. Borelli's De motu animalium, which was published posthumously in 1680 and 1681, is devoted to locomotion on earth and in water and air. Perrault's Mécanique des animaux begins by disclaiming the implication of its ambiguous title. Descartes succeeded in introducing mechanism into the study of living things, or rather the new mechanism and the new mechanics put forward by Galileo, Descartes himself, and others in the first half of the seventeenth century.

Keywords: animal soul; Giovanni Borelli; Charles Perrault; René Descartes; machine; intelligibility; De motu animalium; locomotion; Mécanique des animaux

Chapter.  4450 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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