The Brain Takes Shape

The Brain Takes Shape : An Early History

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Using historical and anthropological perspectives to examine mind-body relationships in western thought, this book interweaves topics that are usually disconnected to tell a big, important story in the histories of medicine, science, philosophy, religion, and political rhetoric. Beginning with early debates during the Scientific Revolution about representation and reality, Martensen demonstrates how investigators such as Vesalius and Harvey sought to transform long-standing notions of the body as dominated by spirit-like humors into portrayals that emphasized its solid tissues. Subsequently, Descartes and Willis and their followers amended this 'new' philosophy to argue for the primacy of the cerebral hemispheres and cranial nerves as they downplayed the role of the spirit, passion, and the heart in human thought and behaviour. None of this occurred in a social vacuum, and the book places these medical and philosophical innovations in the context of the religious and political crises of the Reformation and English Civil War and its aftermath. Patrons and their interests are part of the story, as are patients and new formulations of gender.
John Locke's psychology and the emergence in England of a constitutional monarchy figure prominently, as do opponents of the new doctrines of brain and nerves and the emergent social order. The book's concluding chapter discusses how debates over investigative methods and models of body order that first raged over 300 years ago continue to influence biomedicine and the broader culture today. No other book on western mind-body relationships has attempted this.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 278 pages
  • 154.9 x 238.8 x 22.9mm | 589.68g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • numerous black and white photographs
  • 0195151720
  • 9780195151725
  • 2,093,323

Review quote

Scholars often pay lip service to the important roles of theological and philosophical concepts in the making of modern science and medicine. Robert Martensen has taken the platitude seriously, and his book powerfully demonstrates how our modern beliefs about mind and body were first elaborated in the seventeenth century, when philosophy, theology and science were intertwined. The result is a cultural history of biomedicine at its very best. * W.F. Bynum, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London * Advance Praise for The Brain Takes Shape:
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About Robert L. Martensen

Robert L Martensen, MD, PhD, is the first James A. Knight Chair in Humanities and Ethics in Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he is also Professor of Surgery. From 1995 to 2002, he served as Associate Professor, Professor, and Chair of the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, where he also directed its Clendening Library of the History of Medicine and helped
care for emergency patients. While in Kansas, Dr. Martensen published articles on the intersection of the "biomedical industrial complex" with emergence of bioethics, among other topics. In 2002, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support completion of this book before joining Tulane
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Table of contents

Selected events and historical actors ; 1. Bodies, words, and images ; 2. Matter, spirit, and the heart ; 3. The human mind and "Gland H": Cartesian models of mind, brain, and nerves ; 4. When the brain came out of the skull ; 5. Body of witnesses ; 6. Toward a new physiology of human conduct ; 7. The transformation of Eve ; 8. Mind without brain: John Locke, Thomas Syndenham, and the constitutional body of the British enlightenment ; 9. On the persistence of the cerebral body and its alternatives
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