Within late medieval learned medicine, natural death functioned both as a theoretical concept and as a goal for practice. Late medieval commentaries on Avicenna’s Canon are used as source material in this study, in order to investigate the ways in which these learned medical authors envisaged natural death. The findings are compared to descriptions of natural death by natural philosophers, and to ideals of dying in broader medieval culture. According to the physicians, natural death was caused by the extinction of innate heat, due to a lack of innate moisture. They discussed natural death in relation to regimen, as the right regimen protected the body’s heat and moisture, and thus helped a patient to keep natural death aloof. So, in order to think about natural death, the physicians turned to the whole of life, during which heat dried out moisture and regimens ought to be followed. By contrast, natural philosophers tended to focus on the moment of death itself. The comparison of natural death with the Good Death in broad medieval culture highlights the amoral nature of the natural death.
This volume contributes to medical history in Antiquity and the Middle Ages by significantly widening our understandings of health and treatment through the theme of space . The fundamental question about how space was conceived by different groups of people in these periods has been used to demonstrate the multi-variant understandings of the body and its functions, illness and treatment, and the surrounding natural and built environments in relation to health. The subject is approached from a variety of source materials: medical, philosophical and religious literature, archaeological remains and artistic reproductions. By taking a multi-disciplinary approach to the subject the volume offers new interpretations and methodologies to medical history in the periods in question.
Contributors are Helen King, Michael McVaugh, Maithe Hulskamp, Glenda McDonald, Roberto Lo Presti, Fabiola van Dam, Catrien Santing, Ralph Rosen, and Irina Metzler.