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Wolffian Philosophy as Rhetoric in an Essay on the Beauty of the Human Body (1746) by E.A. Nicolai


  • Ilya G. Guryanov

    () (National Research University Higher School of Economics)


The movement of the so-called philosophiñal physicians was formed at the Prussian University of Halle in the middle of the 18th century as a medico-philosophical approach outside of the structure of university genres both in medicine and in philosophy. Being professional physicians, they read metaphysical texts relating to the status of body, to the living or to the relationship between soul and body and introduce the elements of new philosophical discourses such as Wolffianism into the field of medical theory outside of academic discourse. In this context, the objective of the paper is to identify and describe the argumentative features of E. A. Nicolai’s ‘An essay on the beauty of the human body’. Nikolai builds his reasoning more geometrico, referring directly to the works of Christian Wolff and Alexander Baumgarten. However, Nicolai’s use of Wolffian terminology and form of reasoning is systematically ambiguous; for instance, he comes to anthropological conclusions which seem quite consistent with a theory of physical influx totally denied by Wolff discussing the soul-body problem. Moreover, the style of many passages of ‘An essay on the beauty of the human body’, saturated with philosophical terminology, is obviously ironic. Departing from Nikolai’s medico-philosophical approach, the paper lead to a reflection on the configuration of the disciplinary textual spaces and on the borders of academic medicine in the social dimension of the 18th century

Suggested Citation

  • Ilya G. Guryanov, 2017. "Wolffian Philosophy as Rhetoric in an Essay on the Beauty of the Human Body (1746) by E.A. Nicolai," HSE Working papers WP BRP 160/HUM/2017, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hig:wpaper:160/hum/2017

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    Philosophical physicians; Christian Wolff; Early Modern medicine; University of Halle; more geometrico; physical influx; anthropology and aesthetics;

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    • Z - Other Special Topics

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