Regimens of the Mind Boyle, Locke, and the Early Modern Cultura Animi Tradition
by Sorana Corneanu
University of Chicago Press, 2011
Cloth: 978-0-226-11639-6 | Electronic: 978-0-226-11641-9
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226116419.001.0001


In Regimens of the Mind, Sorana Corneanu proposes a new approach to the epistemological and methodological doctrines of the leading experimental philosophers of seventeenth-century England, an approach that considers their often overlooked moral, psychological, and theological elements. Corneanu focuses on the views about the pursuit of knowledge in the writings of Robert Boyle and John Locke, as well as in those of several of their influences, including Francis Bacon and the early Royal Society virtuosi. She argues that their experimental programs of inquiry fulfill the role of regimens for curing, ordering, and educating the mind toward an ethical purpose, an idea she tracks back to the ancient tradition of cultura animi. Corneanu traces this idea through its early modern revival and illustrates how it organizes the experimental philosophers’ reflections on the discipline of judgment, the study of nature, and the study of Scripture.  
It is through this lens, the author suggests, that the core features of the early modern English experimental philosophy—including its defense of experience, its epistemic modesty, its communal nature, and its pursuit of “objectivity”—are best understood.


Sorana Corneanu is a researcher in early modern studies at the Research Center for the Foundations of Modern Thought, University of Bucharest, where she is also a lecturer in the Department of English.


“An excellent work with an original and challenging thesis that is articulated with admirable clarity. Regimens of the Mind will make a major contribution to our understanding of the history of science, philosophy, and religion in seventeenth-century England.”
— Peter Harrison, University of Oxford

“For years we have been taught that early modern philosophy is characterized by the epistemological turn and obsessed with the threat of skepticism. In Regimens of the Mind, Sorana Corneanu shows us a very different side of the period. Focusing on Bacon, Boyle, Locke, and the ‘experimental philosophy’ that grew up in the Royal Society, she shows us the moral dimension of their philosophical and scientific projects. For Corneanu, their enterprise is the cultura animi, nothing less than the reordering and perfecting of the human mind. This elegant and erudite new book should bring about a reordering of our own minds: it will change the way we read these central figures and the intellectual context in which they worked.”
— Daniel Garber, Princeton University

“From Bacon to Locke, the remedying of the defects of the mind and the perfecting of its faculties was an important objective of inquiry into the natural world, but never has this development been explored in such detail as it is here. Regimens of the Mind is a splendid exploration of the moral dimension of natural philosophy in seventeenth-century England.”
— Stephen Gaukroger, University of Sydney

“An outstanding study of the cultura animi tradition and its impact on the emergence of early modern experimental philosophy. Through a careful analysis of a broad sweep of primary sources, including the writings of Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, and John Locke, Corneanu demonstrates that in seventeenth-century England the acquisition of knowledge of nature was not merely a matter of apprehending the nature of the world itself, but also of correctly ordering and curing the knower’s mind.”
— Peter Anstey, University of Otago

"Carefully argued. . . . Corneanu's panotpic view of primary texts and close attention to the atuhors' presentation of the craft of knowing deserve a careful, close reading by all scholars of early modern thought, both British and Continental. . . . An important contribution to early modern scholarship. Highly recommended."
— S. Young, McHenry County College, Choice




1. Francis Bacon and the Art of Direction

2. Cultura and Medicina Animi: An Early Modern Tradition

3. Virtuoso Discipline

4. Robert Boyle: Experience as Paideia

5. John Locke and the Education of the Mind

6. Studying Nature

7. Studying “God’s Contrivances”


List of Abbreviations