Between Atoms and Humours. Lucretius' Didactic Poetry as a Model of Integrated and Bifocal Physiology

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Abstract

Lucretius has often been regarded as one of the fathers of modern science, and also in recent years several studies have explored his influence far beyond a merely literary perspective. In this paper I analyse specifically the importance of the poet's 'eclectic' attitude in physiology from the point of view of his 'Fortleben' in early modern thought. I suggest that the typical eclectic combination of physics and biology, atomism and macroscopy, which the 'De rerum natura' shows in its didactic structure both through its images and even more through its conscious scientific reflection, built an attractive basis for attempts in the modern period at harmonising corpuscularian theories and qualitative doctrines. In order to appreciate such a dialectic relatioship I open with a discussion of Lucretius' own versatile use of vitalism and biology - referring especially to the Peripatetic tradition - and then go on to consider the influence of such a powerful model, which for the sake of argument is called 'bifocal' and 'integrative', on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century authors like Fracastoro, Telesio and Bruno.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBlood, Sweat and Tears. The Changing Concepts of Physiology from Antiquity into Early Modern Europe
Pages83-102
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameIntersections - Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture (25 - 2012)

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