Renaissance Philosophy and the Emergence of Modern Anthropology
Simone De Angelis
(University of Graz)
Paper short abstract:
Anthropology as a "science de l'homme" is often traced back to the 18th century. By reconsidering Renaissance Aristotelianism, especially the commentaries of De Anima, we see modern anthropology emerging as an interaction of philosophical, theological, medical, psychological and natural law issues.
Paper long abstract:
Recently, scholars have underlined the relevance of the Aristotelian tradition for the emergence of empirism in the early modern period. First, because the Corpus Aristotelicum was a significant part of the university curriculum, especially in medicine and law; second, because Aristotelian philosophy was held to support an empiristic approach to knowledge based on sense perception. Aristotelian philosophy was particularly relevant for anthropology as a science of humankind, which emerged from the interaction of philosophy, anatomy, psychology and natural law theory in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The seminal text was Aristotle's De anima, which had been commented on by Greek, Arab and Christian authors since the Hellenistic period, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries De anima was studied in the context of the new anatomical practice, specially at the universities of Padua and Bologna, where the practices of textual exegesis and of dissection of the human body coincided. In this paper I will demonstrate how modern anthropology emerged from the interaction of the commentaries on Aristotles' De anima and the anatomical practice that transformed the Aristotelian doctrine of the soul into a science of humankind. I shall focus on the relation between natural law theory and medicine around 1670, which takes into account both the domain of the physical (physica) and that of the moral world (ethica). This relation formed the presupposition for the link established between natural history, anthropology and the history of humankind in the late Enlightenment.
Writing the history of anthropology in a global era [History of Anthropology Network]