VivaMente 2020: Medicine in the Philosophy of Descartes – 19-20 November 2020

VivaMente 2020: Medicine in the Philosophy of Descartes

19-20 November 2020, Domus Comeliana – Pisa

The first edition of the Vivamente Conference in the History of Ideas aims at drawing attention to the place of medical knowledge, practice and experimentation in Descartes’ philosophy and to the various ways it developed following the efforts of its early and late proponents. It further aims at recapturing recent trends in Cartesian scholarship as well as at exploring different interpretations, and issues both in relation to Descartes’ own philosophy and with regards to the acceptance and opposition it faced in the early modern history of knowledge and science. Lights and shadows emerging from this analysis would help drawing a new intellectual portrait of the philosopher who studied the passions of the soul en physicien and equated the living body to a machine.

Notably, the conference will explore four main areas:

  • Textual: devoted to the analysis of Descartes’ 1) sources of medical knowledge, including their intellectual and social setting, and 2) published and manuscripts medical texts, also edited by Cartesian proponents, with an emphasis on the medical texts produced by Cartesian scholars and critics;
  • Philosophical: focused on Descartes’ approach to medical knowledge, especially the ways it befits, contrasts or develops the main strands of his natural philosophy (i.e., blood circulation, psychology, neurophysiology and embryology), other possible topics in this section include the role of medical experimentation and quantification in the seventeenth-century;
  • Exegetical: highlighting the early reception of Descartes’ medical theories, with their success, obscurities and failures (e.g., the explanation of nutrition), the exchanges and collaborations with his contemporaries and proponents, and the paths Cartesian scholars travelled to fill the lacunae in Descartes’ medical knowledge;
  • Legacy: exploring the later reactions of, and opposition to Descartes’ medicine in early modern Europe, and especially in Italy, France and Germany, where Cartesian medicine was subject of academic discussions and polemics.


Although the plan is to hold the conference at the Domus Comeliana, we are open to the possibility of a virtual conference. The decision will be taken by the committee in early September and will be communicated to the speakers previous to paying any fees. In case of the conference being held online, fees will be reduced to cover the operating costs of the virtual conference. Pre-registration is required (see Registration process below).



The best papers will be collected and proposed for publication as an edited volume for the series Palgrave Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Medicine (PSMEMM).



Fabrizio Baldassarri (Bucharest) and Fabio Zampieri (Padua)


Keynote Speakers:

Annie Bitbol-Hespériès (Paris)

Maria Conforti (Rome)

Gideon Manning (Los Angeles)

Franco Aurelio Meschini (Lecce)

Andrea Strazzoni (Erfurt)



Application Deadline: 28 June 2020

Registration deadline: 15 September 2020

More information at:

Download the Call for Papers in Pdf