By Justin E. H. Smith
Even though it didn't but exist as a discrete box of medical inquiry, biology used to be on the middle of a few of the most crucial debates in seventeenth-century philosophy. Nowhere is that this extra obvious than within the paintings of G. W. Leibniz. In Divine Machines , Justin Smith bargains the 1st in-depth exam of Leibniz's deep and complicated engagement with the empirical existence sciences of his day, in components as assorted as medication, body structure, taxonomy, new release idea, and paleontology. He indicates how those wide-ranging ambitions weren't basically critical to Leibniz's philosophical pursuits, yet usually supplied the insights that resulted in a few of his best-known philosophical doctrines. providing the clearest photograph but of the scope of Leibniz's theoretical curiosity within the lifestyles sciences, Divine Machines takes heavily the philosopher's personal repeated claims that the area needs to be understood in essentially organic phrases. the following Smith finds a philosopher who used to be immersed within the sciences of lifestyles, and appeared to the residing global for solutions to vexing metaphysical difficulties. He casts Leibniz's philosophy in a completely new mild, demonstrating the way it considerably departed from the existing types of mechanical philosophy and had a permanent impact at the heritage and improvement of the lifestyles sciences. alongside the way in which, Smith presents a desirable glimpse into early smooth debates in regards to the nature and origins of natural existence, and into how philosophers equivalent to Leibniz engaged with the medical dilemmas in their period.
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Extra info for Divine Machines: Leibniz and the Sciences of Life
If all we mean by “philosophy of science” is “method of science,” then Leibniz, like Aristotle, certainly had that. But since Leibniz has no conception of science as an enterprise distinct from philosophy, to speak of his philosophy of science cannot help us to make any sense of his understanding of the disciplinary division of labor. ” If Leibniz felt constrained by any disciplinary boundaries, these were not the ones subsequently erected by academic philosophers. Blood, organs, INTRODUCTION 21 food, spermatozoa: these, too, were of interest to Leibniz qua philosopher, and they were directly implicated, as I will show, in what today we take to be his deepest philosophical concerns.
Both the academies Leibniz would later help to establish in Berlin and St. Petersburg, as well as the medical institutions he would propose throughout his life, are in important ways inspired by the organization of religious orders. In a remarkable text titled “Bedenken von Aufrichtung einer Akademie oder Societät [Thoughts on the Establishment of an Academy or a Society],” dated to 1671 in view of its great lexical overlap with the Directiones ad rem medicam pertinentes of the same year, Leibniz reveals both the fundamentally political, and national, character of his interest in medicine, as well as the very broad scope of what he takes medicine to be: In medicine itself it must be admitted that, as the marvellous discoveries of Asellius,11 Acquapendente, Pecquet, Bartholin, Rudbeck,12 Harvey, Lower, 28 CHAPTER 1 Dionysius13 and others reveal, nowhere is practical medicine flourishing more so than in Germany, as all of those well know who come into contact with foreign doctors, pharmacists, and surgeons.
Leibniz also believes that the condition of the hair, presumably its texture and color, can tell us a good deal about a person’s constitution and health. Traditional forms of reading from external signs, such as the shape of the nose, are of course rejected, as it is only what truly emerges from within, what is pushed out from the invisible part of the body and becomes visible, that is diagnostically useful. Physiognomy in contrast, as traditionally practiced, lacks any sufficient reason: “From the figure of the hair of a man all sorts of useful conclusions may be drawn with certainty.