Pierre Jean George Cabanis, a French physician and philosopher, born at Conac, in Sain-tonge, June 5, 1757, died at- Rueil, near Paris, May 5, 1808. In his early studies, which he pursued at Brives, he made little progress. At the age of 14 he went to Paris, where he employed two years in reading the works of ancient philosophers, the writings of the fathers of the church, and those of modern philosophers, such as Rousseau, Voltaire, and Locke. He then passed two years in Poland as secretary of the prince bishop of Wilna. Upon his return to Paris, Turgot introduced him to Mrae. Helvetius and her brilliant circle at Auteuil, where he became acquainted with D'Alembert, Diderot, Condillac, Baron d'Holbach, Franklin, Jefferson, and other men of eminence, and undertook to translate Homer into French verse. He afterward became the pupil of Du-breuil in medicine, and received his degree of doctor in 1783. When the revolution broke out in 1789, Cabanis espoused the popular cause. He became the physician and friend of Mirabeau, of whose last illness and death he published an account. He was also a friend of Condorcet, and procured for him the poison which enabled him to escape the scaffold.
In 1789 he published Observations sur les hopi-taux. In 1795 he was appointed professor of hygiene at the central school, and professor of clinical instruction at the medical school. He was active in the reorganization of medical instruction in the schools of Paris, Montpellier, and Strasburg. In 1797 he published a report to the council of 500 on the organization of medical schools, and Du degre tie certitude en medecine, and in 1804 Coup d'ceil sur les revolutions et la reforme de la medecine, in which he developed the first germs of his system. " The active principle of life and movement in. animated bodies," says Cabanis, "which Stahl calls the 'soul,' is one, but it acts diversely in the organs according to differences of structure and function. It digests in the stomach, breathes in the lungs, secretes bile in the liver, and thinks in the brain." Condillac had explained all the actions of the soul by sensation; Cabanis wished to complete this system of philosophy by investigating and explaining the origin and nature of sensation. "All sensibility,"he maintains, "resides in the nerves, and therefore all the moral affections and intellectual faculties reside in the nerves.
Impressions are received on the peripheral nerves and carried to the nervous centres, where they excite thought, feeling, and reaction in the organism. Distinctions between physical and moral nature are therefore vain, the moral faculties having their origin in the physical." He supported Bonaparte on his return from Egypt; and on the day after the 18th Brumaire, in the name and on behalf of the legislative assembly, he wrote the proclamation recommending the French nation to accept the revolution which had just been accomplished. Under the consulate he was named a member of the senate; but, disappointed by the reactionary policy of Napoleon, he withdrew from public life, and devoted his attention exclusively to science. The principal work of Cabanis is Les rapports du physique et du moral de Vhomme (2 vols. 8vo, Paris, 1802; 3 vols., 1824), a portion of which had appeared in the Recueil de Vinstitut national. Cabanis before he died modified in many respects the views he had maintained in that work, and in a private letter to a friend, published after his death, states that it is impossible to conceive the existence of the universe without an intelligent first cause.