The Rule of Physicians. The Medicalization of Moral Philosophy and its Islamic Roots in Renaissance Italy (1300-1500)
Joël Chandelier is an Assistant Professor of Medieval History at the Paris 8 University. He holds a PhD in History from the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris), and a degree from the École nationale des chartes (Paris). His research focuses on Arabic medicine and its reception in the West and particularly in Italy, examining how Arabic doctors influenced not only scholastic thought, but also medieval Latin culture on the whole during the Trecento and Quattrocento. He has published research on Arabic medicine, on the impact of medical thought in Renaissance Italy, and on the relationship between medicine and philosophy. His books include Avicenne et la médecine en Italie. Le Canon dans les universités (1200-1350) (H. Champion, 2017).
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the idea that doctors could not only protect and restore health, but also teach improvement of behavior and of the soul became widespread among Italian physicians. This vision was anchored in a strong Arabic medico-philosophical tradition, especially that of Avicenna and Averroes, who linked this idea with the study of the complexion and with the tradition of physiognomics and political science. This project proposes to study this Islamic influence on medicine and ethics, and to highlight the role of physicians in the constitution of Renaissance moral philosophy between the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century. It focuses on Latin Italian medical texts, as on commentaries on Avicenna’s Canon, and on the commentary on Nicomachean Ethics by the physician Niccolò Tignosi da Foligno. It also aims to study the diffusion of those ideas in Western culture, nurturing the idea that doctors can, with their art, not only heal the body, but also improve men, change society and guide rulers, thus creating the conditions of the first “medicalization of moral philosophy” in the era of early humanism.