Tag Archives: Claude Bernard

Teaching Cartoon – Systems are not in Nature, they are in the mind of humans.

teaching cartoon

h/t The Wizard of Id (used without permission)

“The fixity of the milieu supposes a perfection of the
organism such that the external variations are at each
instant compensated for and equilibrated…. All of the vital
mechanisms, however varied they may be, have always
one goal, to maintain the uniformity of the conditions of
life in the internal environment …. The stability of the
internal environment is the condition for the free
and independent life.” *

* Claude Bernard, from Lectures on the Phenomena Common to Animals and
Plants, 1978. Quoted in C Gross, “Claude Bernard and the constancy of the internal
environment”, The Neuroscientist, 4:380-5 1998

Claude Bernard 1813–1878

Bernard introduced the concept of the milieu intérieur – the regulatory function that the nervous system applies to the stability of internal secretions and tissues. It anticipated the notion of homeostasis, introduced by Walter Cannon (1871-1945) in 1932, which has been at the heart of many psychological theories of learning and motivation.

The range of Bernard’s experimental research was vast, being concerned initially with digestion and its nervous control, and extending to the whole of experimental physiology and its philosophical underpinnings. His influence on physiology, both through his teaching and his many textbooks, was far-reaching. His studies of control mechanisms in the vascular system led him to propose a more holistic view of physiology: he stated that “Systems do not exist in Nature, but only in men’s minds”. Bernard rejected the prevalent approach of comparative physiologists who emphasised species differences, proposing a general physiology which “does not seek to grasp the differences that separate beings, but the common points that unite them”. He was also skeptical about the use of averages in the study of complex systems, favoring the presentation of results from the “most perfect experiment” as a reflection of the true state of affairs. source: Portraits of European Neuroscientists

The Things We Do. Using the Lessons of Bernard and Darwin to Understand the What, How, and Why of Our Behavior Gary Cziko

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