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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities - Alexander von Humboldt Professorship

Project description

Galenic psychopathology. Medicine and philosophy on mental disorder in Galen

My research project aims at clarifying Galen’s psychopathological concepts and theories and the way he accounts for functional disturbances of the ψυχή (understood as the origin of sensation and movement, feelings and intellection).

This question lies precisely at the meeting (or parting) point of medicine and philosophy in Galen and could be held as a criterion for judging the coherence of his corpus. Even if, as a physician, he acknowledges a variety of bodily disorder involving the soul, mental disease may not be a proper nosological category for Galen. By contrast, he does use this very idea in his more ethical or philosophical texts. In order to explain this discrepancy between types of discourses, I intend to examine Galen’s so-called materialism and his treatment of the mind-body problem, and to investigate the eventuality of a soul stratification which would account both for his agnosticism regarding the nature of the soul and for the distinction of medical and philosophical spheres.

Accordingly, I analyze in my dissertation how psychopathology gives Galen the opportunity to engage as a physician with the biology of psychic processes and to provide fine observations on the interaction of body and soul; on the other hand, I seek to ponder how his ethical discourse on psychological affections relates to the issue of the materiality of the soul. The final aim of this research will hence be to see if and how Galen articulates these perspectives in an encompassing view of human being.