Article ID: CBB449232524

Notomisti, filosofi, «cacciatori di teste»: Gall, Kant e i primordi della frenologia (2011)


In 1798, the German physician and anatomist Franz Joseph Gall, after his transfer to Vienna, published a pioneer paper that gave rise to the Scha¨dellehre (skull–doctrine): a new discipline (today better known under the spurious name of phrenology) aimed at the study of the functional relations between mental faculties, cerebral areas, and skull bumps. During that same period (1796-1798), several Kantian texts began to circulate, in which – polemicizing with J.C. Lavater, and S.Th. Soemmerring – some anthropological and psychological issues, present also in Gall’s paper (e.g., ‘‘the inner and outer side of man,’’ ‘‘skull morphology,’’ ‘‘the organ of the soul,’’ etc.) were dealt with, but in an independent way. Kant will come to know of the Scha¨dellehre only in the last years of his life, showing an unexpected interest in the subject. Proof of this may be found not only in the testimony of his Tischgenossen (table friends), but also in some posthumous notes (AA XV/2, AA XXI: 1802-1803), which are the object of a still controversial interpretation. In 1804, upon the death of the philosopher – on the background of the striking contemporaneous occurrence of the so-called ‘‘skull hunt’’ (Scha¨deljagd), raging at that time in the Austro-German area – also Kant’s skull, like those of other prominent figures, became the object of a phrenological investigation, as Gall had for a long time been hoping.

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Authors & Contributors
Eling, Paul
Finger, Stanley
Whitaker, Harry A.
Piazza, Marco
Brain, Robert Michael
Cohen, Robert S.
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Jahrbuch für Europäische Wissenschaftskultur
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Wiener Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der Neuzeit
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
History of Psychology
Hambledon Continuum
Oxford University Press
Physical anthropology
Gall, Franz Joseph
Spurzheim, Johann Kaspar
Kant, Immanuel
Combe, George
Maine de Biran, François Pierre Gonthier
Oersted, Hans Christian
Great Britain
19th century
18th century
17th century
20th century
University of Padua

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