The Medicine of the Mind and Natural Philosophy in Early Modern England

The Medicine of the Mind and Natural Philosophy in Early Modern England

A New Way of Interpreting Francis Bacon

This project received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 241125.

2009 – 2014

Principal Investigator:
Guido GIGLIONI (The Warburg Institute)

Dana JALOBEANU (University of Bucharest)
Sorana CORNEANU (University of Bucharest)

Host Institutions:
The Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London

New Europe College – Institute of Advanced Studies, Bucharest

Project page at the Warburg Institute:

Our project aims to provide a reappraisal of Bacon’s work and his legacy in the seventeenth century by focusing on a set of interrelated disciplinary contexts that, for reasons of interpretative and heuristic convenience, we have decided to call the early modern ‘medicine of the mind’. In doing so, we will be able to make sense of many aspects of Bacon’s work that still remain obscure and, as an added bonus, to clarify a number of long debated questions concerning seventeenth-century science and natural philosophy.

‘Medicine of the mind’ was commonly used by early modern philosophers, theologians, rhetoricians and physicians to refer to a set of practices for training and improving the powers of the mind. Disciplines dealing with the medicine of the mind devised methods to train the soul and the body to collaborate towards the attainment of forms of practical wisdom. Such disciplines provided regimens of life, cures for the passions and methods to discipline one’s own thought, as in the writings of John Woolton, John Abernethy, Thomas Rogers, Thomas Wright and Robert Burton, or in the translations of continental Protestant Neostoics (e.g. Pierre de la Primaudaye, Phillippe Du Plessis Mornay, Simon Goulart).

Our project aims at recovering a body of knowledge that, precisely because of the elusive nature of its disciplinary collocation, seems not to have filled any specific institutional niche or disciplinary pigeonhole in the early modern system of knowledge and has therefore escaped the attention of scholars working in the field of the history of early modern natural philosophy. The recovery of this background will make possible a new and fruitful reading of Bacon’s programme for the reformation of knowledge. We will also explore the way in which in the second half of the seventeenth century, under its Baconian definition, the notion of medicina mentis became part of the language of experimental philosophy.

We expect this project to have a significant impact upon the field of early modern intellectual history. By opening new exegetical horizons in the area of Bacon studies and allied subjects, it will promote a reconsideration of the development of seventeenth-century English natural philosophy and science. It will stimulate a reconsideration of the meaning of method in early modern culture. It will bring to the fore aspects that have previously been considered less relevant, such as Bacon’s theory of living matter and his theological views. It will also throw light on the meanings of ‘Baconianism’ in the seventeenth century.

Stages of research:

The Stoic and Protestant Connection
Medicine of the Mind and Francis Bacon’s Theology
The French Connection and Varieties of Baconianism
‘Priests of nature’: Baconianism in the Seventeenth Century

Workshops and colloquia:

‘Francis Bacon and the Medicine of the Mind: Stoic Protestantism in Late Renaissance England’
New Europe College, Bucharest, 13-15 May 2010


‘The Order of Nature, Theological Anthropology, and Medicine of the Mind: Francis Bacon and Religion Reconsidered’
New Europe College, 1-2 March 2013


‘Finding a path through the woods: Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum’
University Paris 7 (Diderot), 12-13 December 2014
Conveners: Dana Jalobeanu and Koen Vermeir


‘History and philosophy of scientific experimentation’
27 November 2014, University of Bucharest
Convener: Dana Jalobeanu


‘Experiments and the Arts of Discovery in Early Modern Europe’ (4th Bucharest Colloquium in Early Modern Philosophy)
University of Bucharest 12-13 May 2013
Conveners: Dana Jalobeanu and Mihnea Dobre

International colloquium jointly organized by the ERC starting grant MOM with the research project ‘From natural history to science’, CELFIS, University of Bucharest.

Invited speakers: Daniel Garber (Princeton), Roger Ariew (University of South Florida), Peter Anstey (Sydney), Mordechai Feingold (Caltech), Richard Serjeantson (Cambridge), Kathryn Murphy (Oxford), Koen Vermeir (Paris), Johnathan Regier (Paris), Albrecht Heffer (Gent), Alberto Vanzo (Warwick), Benedino Gemelli (Belizzona), Evan Ragland (Alabama), Arianna Borelli (Wupertal), Sergius Kodera (Vienna).

Participants: Sorana Corneanu, Vlad Alexandrescu, Oana Matei, Sebastian Mateiescu, Claudia Dumitru, Daniel Schwarz (Univ. California, San Diego), Lucio Mare (University of South Florida), Ville Paukonen (University of Helsinki)


‘Francis Bacon on Natural History and Natural Magic: The Mystery of Sylva Sylvarum’, International Colloquium and Workshop, Princeton University, 14-27 May 2012. Organizers: Daniel Garber and Dana Jalobeanu.

Joint event, organized by the ERC starting grant MOM and Princeton University; a two-week long workshop on Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum and an international colloquium.

Invited speakers: Bill Newman (Indiana), Silvia Manzo (University of La Plata). Participants: Koen Vermeir (SPHERE, Paris 7), Sorana Corneanu (University of Bucharest), Doina Cristina Rusu (University of Bucharest), James Lancaster (Warburg), Laura Georgescu (University of Ghent), Ian Stewart (Toronto)