Article ID: CBB716660711

The Medical Cartesianism of Henricus Regius: Disciplinary Partitions, Mechanical Reductionism and Methodological Aspects (2018)


This article explores the medical theories of the Dutch philosopher and physician Henricus Regius (1598-1679), who sought to provide clearer notions of medicine than the traditional theories of Jean Fernel, Daniel Sennert and Vopiscus Plempius. To achieve this, Regius overtly built upon the natural philosophy of René Descartes, in particular his theories of mechanical physiology and the corpuscular nature of matter. First, I show that Regius envisaged a novel partitioning of medicine, intended to make it independent in exposition but conceptually grounded in natural philosophy. This served his overall purpose of making medicine a clearer discipline. To this end Regius detaches the general notion of physiology as the study of the human body (which pertains to natural philosophy) from a medical physiology that concerns only health. Secondly, I show that Regius's notions of health, disease, temperament and medicaments were the product of a Cartesian interpretation of traditional concepts, which was influencedby Santorio Santorio's project of practicing medicine without occult elements. As a consequence, Regius̉s classification of these notions is largely traditional. In conclusion, I show that Regius's method of investigation in the area of natural philosophy consisted of a problem-solving procedure based on sensorial ideas. This approach can be traced back to Descartes, but was grounded on a purely empirical theory of knowledge, by which he rejected Descartes's metaphysics. Regius's order of exposition in natural philosophy and medicine, on the other hand, proceeds by definitions and divisions, and omits proofs. The reasons why Regius adopted this order were: 1) his rejection of Descartes's metaphysical interpretation of physics, and 2) his wish to emphasize the conceptual clarity and continuity of natural philosophy and medicine.

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Authors & Contributors
Baldassarri, Fabrizio
Garau, Rodolfo
Guidi, Simone
Smith, Kurt
Abou-Nemeh, Samar Catherine
Vinci, Thomas C.
Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche Filosofiche e Materiali Storico-testuali
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Oxford University Press
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Blackwell Publishers
Mechanism; mechanical philosophy
Natural philosophy
Descartes, René
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von
Locke, John
Boyle, Robert
Perrault, Claude
Time Periods
17th century
Early modern
18th century
16th century
Académie des Sciences, Paris

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