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558 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 24:4 OCTOBER t986 JoUey has whetted our appetite, for him to prepare an edition of the as yet unpublished correspondence between Leibniz and Burnett. G. A. J. ROGERS University of Keele Patrick Romaneil. John Locke and Medicine. A New Key to Locke. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, x984. Pp. 2~5. $19.95. Since his 1958 "Locke and Sydenham: A Fragment on Smallpox 0670)" [Bull. Hist. Med. (32): 293-321], Prof. Romanell has devoted a lifetime of scholarship m searching primary and secondary sources as to Locke's work in medicine and that work's relationship to his ~69o masterpiece, An Essay Conzerning Human Understanding. At last his full treatment of these issues has come to print, and in its way it too is a masterwork in the "historical, plain method." Summarizing his research in the Locke papers (some of which only became available with the Mellon donation to the Bodleian Library in 196o-63), he writes: "the appropriate method of inquiry required in philosophy is, implicitly, the very same method required in medicine, generalized.... [Locke's] own 'historical, plain method', which has unfortunately suffered from conflicting interpretations and insufficient analysis in the past, proves to be in fact a method of philosophy derived mainly from the empirical medicine of his day and ultimately from the origins of that medicine in [the Empirical School of Medicine of the Hellenistic period]." This general summary as to the medical genealogy of Locke's masterwork entails three claims derived in their turns from particular bodies of evidence presented: that Locke's purpose is to initiate a new direction for philosophy by adapting and generalizing the medical notion of natural histories to give us, in effect, a "natural history of knowledge"; that like its older counterparts such as natural histories of diseases, this new natural history must have a method of inquiry suitable to its purpose; and third, that a thorough study of Locke's unfamiliar medical writings "offers not only a new but a precise way to justify [his] claim that the explicitly historical,plain method.., is implicit chiefly and ideally in his early medical thought." When these writings are carefully examined and Locke's scorn for idle speculation is coupled with his concern for practical results, it appears that his medical scepticism about essences joins a medical practicality which, Romanell argues, makes Locke not so much a British Empiricist as "the natural Father of British Pragmatism." A careful catalog of Locke's medical writings (4o-46) and transcriptions of the 1666 "Morbus," the Smallpox fragment of 167o (7o-72), portions of the crucial "De Arte Medica 1669" (115-2o) and "A Bibliography on Locke and Medicine" (211--16) provide the reader with evidence and sources in substantiation of the book's argument. Two major contributions must suffice for review: the "three aspects" of Locke's "general method of inquiry," and the explanation of what Locke meant by "historical, plain method." Romanell argues (in chapters 4, 5, and 6) that there is a medical origin for three aspects of Locke's method: First, it is "agnostic" in that just as Locke foregoes theoretical dispute over Galenic humours vs. Paracelsian-Helmontian "ferments" as causes of disease, so he comes---as early as x67t>--to recommend a more critical, BOOK REVIEWS 559 sceptical, and guarded attitude toward "essences" in philosophical inquiry. Second, his method is "empirical" in the classic sense of observational (though not "empiric" in the seventeenth-century sense of "quackery") and rejects the "romance way" of rationalistic speculation in order to focus attention on direct experience as in medical diagnosis. And third, it is "pragmatic" in that, just as medicine is a practical art seeking cures restoring health, so philosophy inquires into the causes, limits, and effects of knowing in order to seek what limited well-being is accessible to natural man via artifice limited in its range. As Lady Masham had said, no field went unexplored if Locke thought it might yield "useful knowledge"; it. is his emphasis on use which explai.ns ~his third aspect (see especially the long passage from his a668 "Anatomia," 1i if.). In an intriguing 6non-word footnote (192-~o3), Romanell...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 558-559
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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