Volume 16, 1998
The Body as Teacher
From Source of Knowledge to Object of Knowledge
I look at two ways of seeing the body during the Renaissance: the first, illustrated in the Essais of Montaigne, focuses on the body as a source of knowledge about the self; the second, illustrated in the developing science of anatomy, focuses on the body as an object of knowledge that is increasingly available only to specialists. In looking at the science of anatomy as it developed in the Renaissance, I show that the transformation of the body from a source of knowledge of both body and soul to an object of a mechanical science did not happen easily and reflects contradictory approaches to the self that continue to this day.