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Claude Bernard and an introduction to the study of experimental medicine: "physical vitalism," dialectic, and epistemology.
J Hist Med Allied Sci. 2007 Oct; 62(4):495-528.JH

Abstract

This article explores the profound impact of the thought of Claude Bernard (1813-78) and his philosophy of experimentalism elaborated in his masterwork An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. I argue that Bernard's far-ranging theoretical impact on medicine and biology marks the end of conventional vitalism and the elusive notion of a "vital force" as a legitimate scientific concept. His understanding of medicine is as epistemologically significant in its time as Newton's contribution was to the physical sciences in the seventeenth century. This essay treats Bernard's philosophical ambitions seriously, exploring his important, even central, role in the mental world of nineteenth-century France. This includes his influence on Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and other late-nineteenth century thinkers. The subtext of Bernard's experimental epistemology is also contrasted with a key idealist philosopher of the period, the German Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), and placed in the context of the larger European philosophical sphere. In contrast to much of mid-nineteenth-century philosophy, Bernard, in creating the framework for experimental medicine, argued for an experimental approach in which a priori assumptions were to be strictly constrained. Bernard's thoughts on the nature of experiment put an end to "systems" in medicine, ironically by replacing all previous medical philosophies with the all-embracing "system" of experiment. And yet, while "vital forces" fade after Bernard, a form of vitalism still flourishes. Even in Bernard's own work, in the struggle with concepts like determinism, complexity, and causality, there is a realization of the unique character of living function in a kind of "physical vitalism."

Authors+Show Affiliations

University Canada West, 950 Kings Road, Victoria, BC V8T I W6. vitaliste@hotmail.com

Pub Type(s)

Biography
Historical Article
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Language

eng

PubMed ID

17576723

Citation

Normandin, Sebastian. "Claude Bernard and an Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine: "physical Vitalism," Dialectic, and Epistemology." Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, vol. 62, no. 4, 2007, pp. 495-528.
Normandin S. Claude Bernard and an introduction to the study of experimental medicine: "physical vitalism," dialectic, and epistemology. J Hist Med Allied Sci. 2007;62(4):495-528.
Normandin, S. (2007). Claude Bernard and an introduction to the study of experimental medicine: "physical vitalism," dialectic, and epistemology. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 62(4), 495-528.
Normandin S. Claude Bernard and an Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine: "physical Vitalism," Dialectic, and Epistemology. J Hist Med Allied Sci. 2007;62(4):495-528. PubMed PMID: 17576723.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Claude Bernard and an introduction to the study of experimental medicine: "physical vitalism," dialectic, and epistemology. A1 - Normandin,Sebastian, Y1 - 2007/06/18/ PY - 2007/6/20/pubmed PY - 2007/11/14/medline PY - 2007/6/20/entrez SP - 495 EP - 528 JF - Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences JO - J Hist Med Allied Sci VL - 62 IS - 4 N2 - This article explores the profound impact of the thought of Claude Bernard (1813-78) and his philosophy of experimentalism elaborated in his masterwork An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. I argue that Bernard's far-ranging theoretical impact on medicine and biology marks the end of conventional vitalism and the elusive notion of a "vital force" as a legitimate scientific concept. His understanding of medicine is as epistemologically significant in its time as Newton's contribution was to the physical sciences in the seventeenth century. This essay treats Bernard's philosophical ambitions seriously, exploring his important, even central, role in the mental world of nineteenth-century France. This includes his influence on Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and other late-nineteenth century thinkers. The subtext of Bernard's experimental epistemology is also contrasted with a key idealist philosopher of the period, the German Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), and placed in the context of the larger European philosophical sphere. In contrast to much of mid-nineteenth-century philosophy, Bernard, in creating the framework for experimental medicine, argued for an experimental approach in which a priori assumptions were to be strictly constrained. Bernard's thoughts on the nature of experiment put an end to "systems" in medicine, ironically by replacing all previous medical philosophies with the all-embracing "system" of experiment. And yet, while "vital forces" fade after Bernard, a form of vitalism still flourishes. Even in Bernard's own work, in the struggle with concepts like determinism, complexity, and causality, there is a realization of the unique character of living function in a kind of "physical vitalism." SN - 0022-5045 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/17576723/Claude_Bernard_and_an_introduction_to_the_study_of_experimental_medicine:_"physical_vitalism"_dialectic_and_epistemology_ L2 - https://academic.oup.com/jhmas/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/jhmas/jrm015 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -