Anatomy and the Body in Renaissance Protestant Psychology


In: Early Science and Medicine

This article addresses the use of anatomical knowledge in Renaissance works on the soul produced at northern European universities, as well as the notions of ‘body’ and ‘soul’ that emerge from them. It examines specifically Philip Melanchthon’s and Rudolph Snell van Royen’s treatises on the soul. This analysis shows that a number of Protestant professors of arts and medicine generally considered the anatomical study of the body – which they conceived of as a teleologically organised machina (machine) – to be instrumental in studying the human soul. This article will, however, also document that the reasons motivating this conception were not uniform.


  • 3

    On this point see KusukawaThe Transformation of Natural Philosophy88.

  • 21

    Robert J. Hankinson“Galen and the Best of All Possible Worlds,” The Classical Quarterly. New Series 39 No. 1 (1989) 206–227. And Nancy Siraisi “Vesalius and the Reading of Galen’s Teleology” Renaissance Quarterly 50 No.1 (1997) 1–37.

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  • 26

    Jürgen Helm“Protestant and Catholic Medicine in the Sixteenth Century? The Case of Ingolstadt Anatomy,” Medical History45 (2001) 83–9696.

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  • 27

    Ibid.92. The Jesuit Constitutiones state: “Sic etiam quoniam artes vel scientiae naturales ingenia disponunt ad theologiam et ad perfectam cognitionem et usus illius inserviunt et per seipsas ad eundum finem juvant; qua diligentia par est et per eruditos praeceptores in omnibus sincere honorem et gloriam Dei quaerendo tractentur. Medicinae et Legum studium ut a nostro Instituto magis remotum in Universitatibus Societatis vel non tractabitur vel saltem ipsa Societas per se oneris non suscipiet “ (Constitutiones Societatis Jesu Anno 1558 (Rome 1558) XII.3)

  • 29

    Michael Edwards“Body Soul and Anatomy in Late Aristotelian Psychology” 65–66.

  • 30

    See KusukawaThe Transformation of Natural Philosophy108–114. On the medical aspects of Schegk’s work see Hiro Hirai Medical Humanism and Natural Philosophy. Renaissance Debates on MatterLife and the Soul (Leiden 2011) 80–103.

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  • 37

    Ibid.5.

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