Estranged Minds and Their Corpuscles: Bacon, Helmont and Locke on Dysfunctional Thinking

  • Guido Giglioni University of Macerata
Keywords: Francis Bacon, Jan Baptista van Helmont, John Locke, thinking, mental illness


Between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, a momentous redefinition of the philosophical notion of intellectus led several thinkers to devise new solutions to remedy what was increasingly perceived as the human mind’s alleged inability to know and control reality. In this article, I concentrate on three cases which, I argue, can be profitably studied as interrelated, for Bacon, Helmont and Locke shared similar concerns about the scope and limits of the human mind. They moved, however, from different premises, suggested that human minds inhabited different universes of particulate matter and, above all, envisioned different solutions regarding the question of mental estrangement.