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“False or Defective” Appetite in the Medical Enlightenment

“False or Defective” Appetite in the Medical Enlightenment

(p.40) Two “False or Defective” Appetite in the Medical Enlightenment
Appetite and Its Discontents
Elizabeth A. Williams
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 2 explores divisions among physicians of the later Enlightenment in regard to Ancient teachings on appetite, ingestion, and digestion. It shows that while many physicians continued to extol the Hippocratic tradition, others embraced medico-philosophical systems (iatrochemistry, iatromechanism) that challenged Ancient authority. The significance for appetite of mechanist mind-body dualism is indicated along with critiques of mechanist theories of appetite by holistically minded animists and vitalists. The place of appetite in classifications devised by nosologists who sought to describe every known disease is explicated, with special attention given to the work of François Boissier de Sauvages of Montpellier and William Cullen of Edinburgh. Also surveyed are the chief appetitive ills that concerned bedside physicians, including dyspepsia, obesity, and the troubled eating doctors attributed to the peculiar physico-moral makeup of women and girls. This chapter argues that although physicians overall emphasized the importance to health of individual appetite, those who sought to ground medicine in the developing science of physiology began looking for uniformities, even universals, in ingestion and digestion.

Keywords:   mechanism, animism, vitalism, nosology, François Boissier de Sauvages, William Cullen, dyspepsia, obesity, women

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