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Of Snails and Horsetails: Anatomical Empiricism in the Early Modern 

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses the issue of medical empiricism from a different perspective, focusing not primarily on therapy but rather on anatomy and specifically on the problem of generalization of knowledge and the tension between the uniformity and diversity of nature. In order to come to grips with this issue, it considers three levels of diversity: diversity among species; diversity among organisms within a species; and diversity within an individual organism, with regard to age, for example. The two perspectives, one based primarily on therapies and the other on anatomy, are not entirely unrelated, because the anatomical study of diversity within an organism, or among organisms within the same species, for example, have profound medical and therapeutic implications; moreover, in the early modern period, different animal species were used for physiological and medical investigations, with differences among species proving of crucial significance. Snails and horsetails proved especially challenging in the chapter.

Keywords: anatomy; horsetails; medical empiricism; Snails; therapies



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