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The Body is a Battlefield. Conflict and Control in Seventeenth-Century Physiology and Political Thought

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Chapter Summary

Early modern political thinkers concerned themselves with physiology and adopted physiological concepts of motion to explain political dynamics. This chapter examines the mutual inspiration between physiological and political concepts of motion, based on the example of Tommaso Campanella and Francis Bacon, as these political philosophers displayed a strong interest in physiology and wrote on it extensively. Both of them were medical laymen and conceived of physiology as a speculative science concerned with investigating the principles that were at work in the whole of nature. The chapter argues that physiological processes, such as the generation of motion and heat, its regulation or self-regulation, and the interaction between the bodily organs, came to provide a heuristic model for the analysis of dynamics in the political sphere. The frequent references to physiology can be understood as an important contribution to the process of medicalisation of governmental techniques and political analysis.

Keywords:body; conflict; control; Francis Bacon; physiology; political thought; Tommaso Campanella

10.1163/9789004229204_009
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