Cabanis, Pierre-Jean-Georges

Cabanis, Pierre-Jean-Georges


Born June 5, 1757, in Cosnac, Corrèze; died May 5, 1808, in Rueil. French materialist philosopher and physician, a student of Condillac.

Cabanis’ political views were close to those of the Girondins, and he was a friend of Mirabeau and Condorcet. During the Great French Revolution he played a leading role in reorganizing the medical school and took part in the coup d’etat of 18 Brumaire.

Cabanis’ materialist and atheist views were less consistent and militant than were those of the older generation of 18th-century French materialists. He maintained that the brain produced thought just as the pancreas or the liver produced secretions. Cabanis is thus considered a precursor of vulgar materialism. Together with A.-L.-C. Destutt de Tracy, Cabanis was a founder of the theory of “ideology” as the science of the general and immutable laws of the formation of ideas. He held that medicine was the chief means for perfecting mankind, since by acting on the body it would be possible to achieve mental transformations. Cabanis had an important influence on the development of medicine and physiology, particularly in 18th-century America. In his last years he tended toward vitalism.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1-5. Paris, 1823-25.
Oeuvres philosophiques, parts 1-2. Paris, 1956.
In Russian translation:
Otnosheniia mezhdu fizicheskoiu i nravstvennoiu prirodoiu cheloveka, vols. 1-2. St. Petersburg, 1865-66.


Zabludovskii, P. E. “Kabanis—vrach-materialist XVIII.” Klinicheskaia meditsina, 1939, vol. 17, issue 5.
Dubois, E. F. Examen des doctrines de Cabanis, vols. 1-2, Paris, 1842.
Guillois, A. Le Salon de Madame Helvétius, Cabanis et les idéologues. Paris, 1894.
Vermeil de Conchard, P. P. Trois Études sur Cabanis. Brive, 1914.