(Roughly) Daily

Ye shall know them by the bumps on their heads…


In 1902, L.A. Vaught published Vaught’s Practical Character Reader.  Writing at the beginning of a revival of interest in phrenology (which originally flourished in the early 19th century; was discredited; then rose again, encouraged by theories emerging at the turn of the 20th century in evolution, criminology, and anthropology), the author explains in his preface…

The purpose of this book is to acquaint all with the elements of human nature and enable them to read these elements in all men, women and children in all countries. At least fifty thousand careful examinations have been made to prove the truthfulness of the nature and location of these elements. More than a million observations have been made to confirm the examinations. Therefore, it is given the world to be depended upon. Taken in its entirety it is absolutely reliable. Its facts can be completely demonstrated by all who will take the unprejudiced pains to do so. It is ready for use. It is practical. Use it.

Via the wonderful Public Domain Review.  Full text and illustrations available at The Internet Archive, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


As we consume the “applied” findings of modern neuroscience with more than one grain of salt, we might pause to recall Pierre Jean George Cabanis; he died on this date in 1808.  Trained as a physician, Cabanis concentrated on physiology, on which he became something of an authority– and of which, something of a philosopher.  He is remembered as the French Enlightenment’s most ardent Materialists, as exemplified in his Rapports du physique et du moral de l’homme (1802; “Relations of the Physical and the Moral in Man”), which undertook to explain the whole of reality, including the psychic, mental, and moral aspects of man, in terms of a mechanistic Materialism.  Building on the thinking of La Mettrie, Cabanis argued that “to have an accurate idea of the operations from which thought results, it is necessary to consider the brain as a special organ designed especially to produce it, as the stomach and the intestines are designed to operate the digestion, (and) the liver to filter bile…”

… And in so doing, Cabanis contributed a few stones to the foundation on which the pseudoscience of phrenology was built.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 5, 2013 at 1:01 am

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