Medicine before Science: The Business of Medicine from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment

By Roger French | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

The weakening of the Latin tradition

INTRODUCTION

Medical scholasticism may not have died in the Black Death, but it was not quite the same afterwards. The ambitions of the early scholastics had not been realised, and it was recognised that the goal of achieving a prelapsarian state of knowledge was unobtainable. 1 The guild-like structures of various branches of knowledge discouraged interdisciplinary approaches. The technicalities of Avicenna and the New Galen did not encourge clerics to continue to engage in medicine. 2 Following the institutional separation of medical theory and practice in Paris and Bologna before the Black Death, practical medicine became more important and better rewarded, while theory was reduced simply to an introduction. 3 The ethos that led Gentile da Foligno to lofty heights of entirely impractical speculation was rejected by his pupil Tommaso de Garbo, who found his teacher too prolix. Tommaso wielded the famous razor of the Oxonian Ockham and thought it undesirable to multiply entities; in particular he had a nominalist's dislike of elaborate and numerous distinctions. 4 For example, where Gentile, calling himself an oculista, had a hugely elaborate theory of vision, Tommaso denied that a real species — a quasi-material simulacrum — moved between object and eye. Believing that shape, number and motion signified only things in the soul and could not be sensed per se, Tommaso seems happy to disagree even with Aristotle. Tommaso made a great deal of money from

____________________
1
See R. W. Southern, Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe. Volume 1 Foundations, Oxford (Blackwell), 1995, pp. 10, 52, who argues that the failure to recapture prelapsarian knowledge was felt most in natural philosophy.
2
See Joseph Ziegler, Medicine and Religion c. 1300. The Case of Arnau de Vilanova, Oxford (Clarendon Press), 1998, p. 5.
3
See Danielle Jacquart, 'Medical scholasticism', in M. D. Grmek, ed., Western Medical Thought from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, trans. A Sugaar, Cambridge, Mass. and London (Harvard University Press), 1998, pp. 197—240, at p. 233.
4
See Katharine Park, Doctors and Medicine in Early Renaissance Florence, Princeton (Princeton University Press), 1985, p. 207.

-127-

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Medicine before Science: The Business of Medicine from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Medicine Before Science *
  • Medicine Before Science - The Business of Medicine from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment *
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Sources *
  • Chapter 1 - Hippocrates and the Philosophers 9
  • Chapter 2 - Galen 34
  • Part II - The Latin Tradition *
  • Chapter 3 - Medieval Schools 59
  • Chapter 4 - Scholastic Medicine 88
  • Chapter 5 - The Weakening of the Latin Tradition 127
  • Part III - The Crisis *
  • Chapter 6 - The Crisis of Theory 157
  • Chapter 7 - Resolutions 185
  • Chapter 8 - Enlightenment, Systems and Science 222
  • Select Bibliography 260
  • Index 270
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