The Body of the Soul: Lucretian Echoes in the Renaissance Theories on the Psychic Substance and its Organic Repartition

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Abstract

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Aristotelianism still was the leading current of natural philosophy and atomistic theories began to arise, Lucretius' De Rerum Natura stood out as an attractive and dangerous model. The present paper reassesses several relevant aspects of Lucretius' materialistic psychology by focusing on the problem of the soul's repartition through the limbs discussed in Book 3. A very successful Lucretian image serves as 'fil rouge' throughout this survey: the description of a snake chopped up, with its pieces moving on the ground (DRN 3.657-669). The paper's first section sets the poet's theory against the background of ancient psychology, pointing out its often neglected assimilation of Aristotelian elements. The second section highlights the influence of De Rerum Natura and its physiology of the soul on Bernardino Telesio, Agostino Doni and Francis Bacon, since all of these authors engage in an original recombination of mechanical and teleological explanations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-236
Number of pages33
JournalGesnerus
Volume71.2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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