Roland Wittwer, "Mapping Body and Soul", in: Reports of the Research Groups at the Topoi Plenary Session 2010, eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies, Special Volume 1 (2011), 1–18


a) Topics and Goals. “Mapping Body and Soul” is an interdisciplinary working group of researchers from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, and Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, along with affiliated members in Hamburg. The group studies the spatial concepts employed in ancient philosophical and medical theories of the relation between body and soul, and those found in the medieval, renaissance, and early modern reception of these theories. Central texts are subjected to systematic analysis with a focus on questions of the location of psychic capacities and the structure of intra-corporeal space; some of these texts are now receiving their very first philological reconstructions. In this context, the group is examining the psychological works of Aristotle; the reception of these works in the era of the Roman Empire (Alexander of Aphrodisias), the middle ages (Ockham), and the Renaissance (Pomponazzi, Zabarella); and finally, critical responses to them from the early modern period (Hobbes, Leibniz, Spinoza). In connection with medical traditions, special attention is given to the writings of Galen and their afterlife in the Medieval Latin and Arabic worlds and in the Renaissance. For this purpose, a selection of key texts is being critically edited for the first time. b) Methods. The group is interdisciplinary in three respects; the questions sketched above are addressed through the joint application of (i) medical history and philosophy, (ii) fundamental philological research and systematically oriented interpretation, (iii) ancient history and the history of later reception. A reading group provides opportunities for exchanging codicological, linguistic, historical, medical, and philosophical knowledge, and thereby contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the central texts. An interna- tional conference (Corcilius/Perler in print) helped the group achieve international visibility while also functioning internally as an important reference point for discussion. c) State of the Discussion. Initially, conceptual issues concerning the division of the soul stood in the foreground; in the second half of Topoi I, our work is focused more concretely on how and where psychic capacities are localized in the body. In the future, we will be placing increased emphasis on the inclusion of medical texts, while of course maintaining the group’s interdisciplinary approach.

Published In

Friederike Fless, Gerd Graßhoff and Michael Meyer (Eds.), Reports of the Research Groups at the Topoi Plenary Session 2010, eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies, Special Volume 1 (2011), Berlin: Exzellenzcluster 264 Topoi