Many physicians, anatomists and natural philosophers engaged in attempts to map the seat of the soul during the so-called Scientific Revolution of the European seventeenth century. The history of these efforts needs to be told in light of the puzzlement bred by today's strides in the neurological sciences. The accounts discussed here, most centrally by Nicolaus Steno, Claude Perrault and Thomas Willis, betray the acknowledgement that a gap remained between observable form, on the one hand, and motor and sensory functions, on the other. Observation yielded information about form, but did not guarantee a constant correlation with presumed function, while the mechanisms of sense and movement did not fit in with accounts of action and cognition whose purpose was to place the connection between active body and willful, conscious soul onto a descriptive rather than metaphysical plane. Teleology was now no longer a helpful tool in the disciplines of anatomy and physiology; the consequences of this are still with us.

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Author notes

Noga Arikha, raised in Paris and based in New York and London, was most recently Visiting Assistant Professor in the Humanities at Bard Col- lege, NY. In 2002–03 she was a Fellow at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University, New York. She received from the Warburg Institute both her MA in Renaissance Studies (1996) and her PhD (2001), which traced a history of the mind-body problem in the late seventeenth century. Her first book, forthcoming in 2007 from the Ecco Press (HarperCollins), explores the history of humoural theories and analyses the status of scientific explanations of the human mind.