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Cabanis

Cabanis, Pierre-Jean-George (1757-1808), French physician and philosopher, born at Cosnac, Charente-lnferieure, was educated at first at the college of Brives, from which he was sent home to his father owing to his determination in resisting the course of study prescribed by his teachers. His father also tried force, with no result, and then adopted the extreme course of taking him to Paris at the age of fourteen, and leaving him to his own devices. This hazardous project succeeded admirably, for all the force of will which young Cabanis had hitherto employed in resisting authority, he now threw into his work. In 1773 he went to Warsaw as secretary to the Prince-Bishop of Wilna, just at the time of the partition of Poland. Two years after he returned to France, and under the influence of the poet Roucher he turned his attention to poetry, with next to no result; and under pressure from his father he chose the profession of medicine, though he never practised much, prefering the generalities of science to its details, and confined his labours to philosophy and to medical physiology. His first work was Observations on Hospitals (1789); and of many others written by him the most notable are Rapports du Physique et du Moral de l'Homme and Lettres sur les Causes premieres. He also wrote on social and political subjects. His philosophy was of a materialistic nature; his opinion of mental processes, for instance, being that "the brain digests impressions, and secretes thoughts," and that the soul is a faculty and not a being; and there is no question that his opinions had great weight with his contemporaries. At the Revolution he ranged himself upon the popular side, and was a friend of Mirabeau, but he went into retirement during the Terror, though he became a member of the council of Five Hundred. Later Napoleon made him a senator and commander of the Legion of Honour.

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