Faculty of Social Sciences

Steven Shapin: "Why Was ‘Custom a Second Nature’ in Early Modern Medicine?"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
  • Seminarium

Office for History of Science

Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of science, Harvard University: "Why Was ‘Custom a Second Nature’ in Early Modern Medicine?"


Abstract
“Custom is a second nature” is a saying that circulated long before the early modern period and in many different cultural settings. But the adage acquired special reference, salience, and force in dietetic medicine from the late medieval through the eighteenth century. What did the saying mean in the early modern medical setting? What presumptions about the body and habitual ways of life were inscribed within it? And what was the historical career of the saying as views of the body, its transactions with the environment, and the hereditary process changed through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? The trajectory of “custom is a second nature” tracks the history of what came to be called the “nature-nurture argument”.