In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS 577 Beck--neither of which is mentioned in this study--Buroker's contribution to the historical and philosophical understanding of Kant's thoughts on incongruence and related themes could have simply been presented in one or two journal articles.3 Consequently, while this book is worth perusing, it is not a must for private collections. Dennis J. Martin Emory University Pierre-Jean Georges Cabanis. On the Relations Between the Physical and Moral Aspects of Man. Edited by George Mora. Translated by Margaret Duggan Saidi. 2 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981. Vol !, pp xci + 357; vol 9, pp. 433. $28.5~ Early in 1796, Pierre-Jean Georges Cabanis began a series of lectures at the newly founded National Institute for the Arts and Sciences at Paris. Later he published a much expanded version of those lectures, "On the Relations Between the Physical and Moral Aspects of Man." The volumes under review claim to be the first English translation of a second, x8o5, edition of that book. Cabanis was intimately associated with many of the famous phiiosophes-ideologues -journalists who contributed to the revolutionary phase of the Enlightenment and who defended the Revolution after it happened. In these lectures, at least, he exhibits no interesting variations from what we have come to think of as their type. He saw his part, in a great movement for the liberation of the human mind, as a continuer of the work of those classical and modern scientists and philosophers who sought to demystify the body-soul relationship. He wanted to give a completely naturalistic account of the relation between, on the one hand, extension, organisms, the man's own body and brain, and on the other, thinking, feeling and psychology. In the first nine of twelve chapters, Cabanis treats of such subjects as the influence of age, sex, "humor," illness, regimen and climate on what he calls "moral disposition and affections," on what we would now call sensibilities or psychology. In the last three chapters he turns to the other side of the coin, to the influence of mind and feelings on the body. In this way he tries to avoid the crude reductionism involved in explaining thought, feeling and evaluation in purely physical terms. I say "tries to," for he seems not to realize that a description of two kinds of determination does not add up to an account of the relation between the two. Most of the time Cabanis leans toward a simple reduction of "the moral" to the physical. He says, "The principle of the moral sciences.., would enter the physical. They would be no more than a branch of the natural history of man." (p. 13) Elsewhere , "all of the phenomena of the intellect and of the will have their sources in the inborn or acquired state of the constitution." (p. 363) But in yet other places he hints at the possibility that psychological characteristics are emergent, not reducible to the 3 C. B. Garnett, The Kantian Philosophy of Space. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1939). Beck's work was cited above. 578 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 21:4 OCT 198 3 physical, and in writings later than this one, the psyche is increasingly seen as independent of the body, even able to survive the death of the body. Cabanis is similarly unfocussed on a subject which he takes very seriously, human nature. At p. 13 he says, "for only by leaning on the constant and universal nature of man can one hope to make progress in these sciences." But in other places he tells us that acquired traits are heritable (p. 366), that man is the most flexible, changeable of animals (pp. 366, 39o, 397), that man is "perfectible," that human desires are modifiable (p. 367), and that "to live is nothing else than to receive impressions and to carry on the movements induced by these impressions." (p. 433) Time has been cruel to Cabanis's writing. Perhaps nine-tenths of his 700 page book is of this sort: "A person placed in a bath absorbs a lesser quantity of water the closer his temperament is to the phlegmatic" (author's emphasis, p. 679...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 577-578
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.