Embodied Stimuli: Bonnet’s Statue of a Sensitive Agent

  • Tobias Cheung
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 25)

Abstract

In this paper, I focus on the relations between sensibility, organic fibres and the soul–body-interface in the second half of the eighteenth century in France. The process of the mediation and transformation of embodied stimuli in a “human statue” is the main theme of Etienne Condillac’s Traité des sensations (1754) and Charles Bonnet’s Essai analytique sur les facultés de l’âme (1760). Both call embodied stimuli “sensations” (sensations) and the faculty to receive sensations “sensibility” (sensibilité). Like in the writings of the Montpellier medical doctors Théophile Bordeu and Paul Joseph Barthez, the term “sensation” refers to a wide range of organic and reflexive phenomena beyond the Hallerian dualism of muscular “irritability” and nervous “sensitivity.” While Condillac is mainly interested in the transformation of sensations into “experiences” and “judgments” of the soul, Bonnet develops a detailed scheme of the fibre œconomy of sensitive agents that transform outer stimuli into “physical sensations” (sensations physiques). Bonnet thus compares the organic differentiations of physical sensations and the relation of “physical ideas” (idées physiques) to the “organization” of living “organized bodies” (corps organisés).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tobias Cheung
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

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