Matt Klemm (History) Gives Paper in Belgium

By Michael Smith, December 15, 2023

Matt Klemm presents "The Vital Spirit in Northern Italian Medical Philosophy ca. 1300"

Professor Klemm was invited to present his work at Spirit: Mapping the Boundaries of the Material and the Immaterial from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period International Conference, hosted by the University of Leuven (Belgium).  His paper examined the role of ‘vital spirit’ in the work of three of the most philosophically inclined physicians in Northern Italy around 1300: Pietro d'Abano, Dino del Garbo, and Turisanus. All three realized that the three types of medical spirit (‘natural’, ‘vital’, and ‘animal’) no longer fit neatly into the three parts of the Christianized Aristotelian soul, since the rational soul was supposed to be entirely immaterial, while animal spirits (which loosely corresponded to the rational soul) although very subtle, were still material. The three physicians gave it a role above the other two spirits in a kind of hierarchy (although they describe this differently) and they also assign it a role in reproduction.