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Neuroscience, Metaphysics and Cerebri Anatome cui Accessit Nervorum Descriptio et Usus

Daniel A. Casey


Thomas Willis (1621-1675), the ‘founder of clinical neuroscience', contributed much to clinical and comparative neuroanatomy and is probably most associated with the ‘circle of Willis' and his Cerebri Anatome cui Accessit Nervorum Descriptio et Usus (1664). As such, through his approach and methodology, Willis appears to have the hallmarks of a modern neuroscientist. Yet he interpreted these studies within a metaphysical framework seemingly deeply alien to modern investigations.  In this overview, some of Willis' work in the Cerebri Anatome is covered, and his philosophical views are then adumbrated. How these can be reconciled is then explored, in conjunction with a discussion of the role of metaphysics in contemporary neuroscience.

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