Bulletin d'histoire et d'épistémologie des sciences de la vie 16 (2):113-140 (2009)
AbstractIn this paper we suggest a revisionist perspective on two significant figures in early modern life science and philosophy: William Harvey and John Locke. Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, is often named as one of the rare representatives of the ‘life sciences’ who was a major figure in the Scientific Revolution. While this status itself is problematic, we would like to call attention to a different kind of problem: Harvey dislikes abstraction and controlled experiments (aside from the ligature experiment in De Motu Cordis), tends to dismiss the value of instruments such as the microscope, and emphasizes instead the privileged status of ‘observed experience’. To use a contemporary term, Harvey appears to rely on, and chiefly value, ‘tacit knowledge’. Secondly, Locke’s project is often explained with reference to the image he uses in the Epistle to the Reader of his Essay, that he was an “underlabourer” of the sciences. In fact, despite the significant medical phase of his career, Locke’s ‘empiricism’ turns out to be above all a practical (i.e. ‘moral’) project, which focuses on the delimitation of our powers in order to achieve happiness, and rejects the possibility of naturalizing knowledge. When combined, these two cases suggest a different view of some canonical moments in early modern natural philosophy.
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Citations of this work
Why Was There No Controversy Over Life in the Scientific Revolution?Charles T. Wolfe - 2010 - In Victor Boantza Marcelo Dascal (ed.), Controversies in the Scientific Revolution. John Benjamins.
Vital Anti-Mathematicism and the Ontology of the Emerging Life Sciences: From Mandeville to Diderot.Charles T. Wolfe - 2017 - Synthese:1-22.
Vitalism and the Resistance to Experimentation on Life in the Eighteenth Century.Charles T. Wolfe - 2013 - Journal of the History of Biology 46 (2):255-282.
A Dark Business, Full of Shadows: Analogy and Theology in William Harvey.Benjamin Goldberg - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):419-432.
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