By M.C. Hall
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Leibniz speaks in the Directiones of the opening up of the human body LEIBNIZ’S ENCOUNTER WITH MEDICINE 35 for examination over the course of the preceding century as a “discovery” akin to that of a new continent, or even as akin to the transformation of the model of the cosmos by the work of Copernicus and Kepler. Leibniz also believes that the condition of the hair, presumably its texture and color, can tell us a good deal about a person’s constitution and health. Traditional forms of reading from external signs, such as the shape of the nose, are of course rejected, as it is only what truly emerges from within, what is pushed out from the invisible part of the body and becomes visible, that is diagnostically useful.
The Paris Notes Leibniz would produce a number of texts and letters dealing with medical topics during the 1670s and 1680s. These show a steady engagement with medical issues throughout his career, an approach that remains very consistent with that sketched out as early as the Directiones of 1671 and that is repeated as late as the polemic against G. E. Stahl of 1709–10. One of Leibniz’s oft-repeated principles in all of these periods is that medicine should not be primarily about administering drugs to those who are already ill, but rather should seek to understand the mechanisms of illnesses so that they may be prevented entirely.
Animal economy for Leibniz encompasses certain aspects of anatomy, physiology, and what in the twentieth century would come to be called “ethology,” or the study of the characteristic behavior of a given kind of creature. ” This distinction will be the central concern of chapters 3 and 4. ” I have remained faithful to these usages (thus, I have steadfastly avoided speaking of “an organism” or “organisms,” as if this were a count noun for Leibniz). ” Thus I have tended to use “organics” as the name for Leibniz’s study of the animal body as a certain kind of infinitely complex structure (from which, as we will see, certain forces, complementary to those of mechanical physics, are derived), while reserving “animal economy” as the name for the study of animals, along more traditional lines, as self-moving, self-nourishing, and self-reproducing machines.