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KLEMM Medicine and Moral Virtue in the Expositio Problematum Aristotelis of Peter of Abano

KLEMM Medicine and Moral Virtue in the Expositio Problematum Aristotelis of Peter of Abano

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Published by: Acca Erma Settemonti on Jul 22, 2014
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University of Nebraska, Kearney 
This paper examines a set of questions concerning
 in Peter of Abano’s
 (1310) and shows that its author takes a naturalistic ap-proach, heavily reliant on medical doctrine, to propose that not only the lower virtues, but also those dependent on the rational soul, are closely tied to physi-ological states. For the irrational soul, this close connection with the body is not surprising. However, in the case of the rational virtues, the dependence on thebody is more unusual and offers a significant example of Peter’s application of medical doctrine beyond the established bounds of the discipline. His is a very different approach to human virtue than that of his contemporaries, and it blursthe distinction between moral virtue and natural virtue throughout his exposition. At the same time, this commentary offers insight into Peter’s broader position onthe soul.
Peter of Abano’s readers often remark on his ambitious andeven presumptuous naturalism, which transcends the establishedbounds for a
 His analyses of medical concepts areunusually philosophical and thorough.
 He is willing to offer
I am grateful to the De Wulf-Mansion Centre at K.U. Leuven, which suppliedfinancial support for this research through the program
 Philosophy between Text and Tradition: Petrus de Abano and the Reception of Aristotle’s
 in the Middle Ages
(Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders, Grant G.0142.04), and to the GladysKrieble Delmas Foundation. I also thank Pieter De Leemans, Guy Guldentops,Craig Martin, Nancy Struever, and this journal’s anonymous referees for theirhelpful comments.
For Peter’s biography see: L. Thorndike,
 A History of Magic and Experimental Science 
, v. II (New York, 1923), 874-939 and E. Paschetto,
 Pietro d’Abano, medico  filosofo
 (Florence, 1984),
19-34, which includes references to Peter’s writings andto older biographical literature. On Peter’s naturalism generally see: F. Alessio,“Filosofia e scienza in Pietro d’Abano,”
Storia della cultura veneta 
, vol. 2 (Vicenza,1976), 171-200; M.T. d’Alverny, “Pietro d’Abano et les “naturalistes” à l’époquede Dante,”
 Dante e la cultura veneta 
, V. Branca, and G. Padoan, eds. (Florence,1966), 207-219; B. Nardi, “Intorno alle dottrine filosofiche di Pietro d’Abano,”
 Nuova rivista storica 
, 4 (1920), 81-97, 464-481 and 5 (1921), 300-313, repr. in
 Saggi sull’aristotelismo padovano dal secolo xiv al xvi 
 (Florence, 1958), 19-74.
N. Siraisi compares his analysis of the elements to his earlier contemporary:
 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2006Early Science and Medicine 11, 3 Also available online www.brill.nl
 of peter of abano
303natural interpretations of issues usually left to theology and evento confront theologians directly, especially in his impassioneddefenses of astrology.
 Other lines of investigation into Peter’sthought have been inspired by his alleged role in the origins of “Paduan Averroism,” and look at his contributions to philosophi-cal methodology and his doctrine on the intellective soul, areasthat have been closely associated with Averroism. Even whilethese particular charges of Averroism have been dispelled, Pe-ter’s unusually rich treatments of these subjects have remainedareas of continuing interest. Concerning the methods of naturalphilosophy, Peter maintained an appropriately practical doctrinefor a
, emphasizing not only the discovery of universalknowledge (
), but the application of this knowledge incontingent events.
 On the soul, his doctrines have proven unu-sually difficult to pin down, with a confusing array of suggestionsspanning the range of available theories.
 Whatever the precise
“Pietro d’Abano and Taddeo Alderotti: Two Models of Medical Culture,”
11 (1985), 139-162.
Peter often refers derisively to theologians who criticise astrology, callingthem “divini hypocriti.” See: G. Federici Vescovini, “Peter of Abano and astrol-ogy,”
 Astrology, Science and Society: Historical Essays
, ed. P. Curry (Woodbridge,1987), 19-39 and her introduction to
 Pietro d’Abano. Trattati di astronomia: Lucidator dubitabilium astronomiae, De motu octavae sphaerae e altre opere 
 (Padua, 1992). J.Cadden finds Peter’s analysis of homosexuality to be quite bold: “‘Nothing Natu-ral is Shameful’: Vestiges of a Debate about Sex and Science in a Group of Late-Medieval MSS,”
76 (2000), 66-89. D. Jacquart observes that Peter did not seem to let the condemnations of 1277 affect his positions: “Moses, Galen and Jacques Despars: Religious Orthodoxy as a Path to Unorthodox Medical Views,”in P. Biller and J. Ziegler, eds.,
 Religion and Medicine in the Middle Ages
 (York,2001), 35-45, at 40-1.
See: J.H. Randall, Jr., “The Development of Scientific Method in the Schoolof Padua,”
 Journal of the History of Ideas
1 (1940), 177-206, repr. in
The School of  Padua and the Emergence of Modern Science
(Padua, 1961); W. Wallace, “Circularity and the Paduan
: From Pietro d’Abano to Galileo Galilei,”
, 33(1995), 76-97; G. Federici Vescovini, “La medicine, synthèse d’art et de scienceselon Pierre d’Abano,” R. Roshed and J. Biard, eds.,
 Les Doctrines de la science de l’antiquité à l’âge classique 
 (Leuven, 1999), 238-55; D. Ottaviani, “Le méthodescientifique dans le
 de Pietro d’Abano,” C. Grellard, éd.
 Méthodes et statut des sciences à la fin du Moyen Age 
 (Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2004), 13-26.
 Works that discuss Peter’s doctrine on the soul include: D. Nikolaus Hasse,“Pietro d’Abano’s “Conciliator” and the Theory of the Soul in Paris,” in J.A. Aertsen, K. Emery, Jr. and A. Speer eds.,
 Nach der Verurteilung von 1277: Philosophie und Theologie an der Universität von Paris im letzten Viertel des 13. Jahrhunderts
 (Ber-lin, 2001), 635-53; B. Nardi, “La teoria dell’anima e la generazione delle formesecondo Pietro d’Abano,”
 Rivista di Filosofia Neoscolastica 
, 4 (1912), 723-37, repr.in
Saggi sull’aristotelismo padovano
, 1-17.
matthew klemm
nature of his doctrine, it is certain that his thoughts did not pass without conflict. He was investigated by a Dominican inquisitionin Paris for allegedly maintaining the materialist position that the “intellective soul is brought about from the potency of mat-ter,” among other suspect ideas.
 Adding difficulty to interpret-ing his work is that his scholarly output is itself unusual. Althoughmany of his topics are common to other scholastic discourse, hecommented on none of the standard works of medicine or natu-ral philosophy and left no treatises on typical subjects. Instead,he integrated his philosophy into the medical context of the
 (completed 1310), the encyclopedic work for whichhe is best known.
 This characteristic makes his philosophicaldiscourse difficult to compare with that of his contemporarieson specific doctrinal points and perhaps explains why his doc-trines have been described on the basis of relatively brief ex-cerpts from the
This paper seeks to clarify our understanding of Peter’s natu-ralism and his use of medical doctrine by examining his exten-sive comments to four sections of questions about moral philosophy 
 (Venice, 1565), reprint (Padua, 1985), diff. 48, ppt. 3: “Et ideoapparet hic erroneus intellectus Jacobitarum me persequentium tamquam posue-rim animam intellectivam de potentia educi materiae, cum aliis mihi 54 ascriptiserroribus. A quorum manibus gratia dei et apostolica mediante laudabiliter evasi.”Peter does not mention other errors specifically, but in diff. 9, ppt. 4, in thecontext of a discussion of astrology, Peter refers to accusations that he had been“derogating divine wisdom,” again adding that he had been saved by “apostolicintervention.” In addition, Thomas of Strasburg, the only known fourteenth-cen-tury witness to the charges against Peter, reports in his
Sentences Commentary
 that Peter had derided divine miracles by giving a naturalistic explanation of Lazarusbeing raised from the dead. See: Nardi, “Intorno alle dottrine filosofiche di Pietrod’Abano,” 21-3, for a discussion of Thomas of Strasburg’s claim, and J. Monfasani,“Aristotelians, Platonists, and the Missing Ockhamists: Philosophical Liberty inPre-Reformation Italy,”
 Renaissance Quarterly
, 46 (1993), 247-276 for the largercontext of the charges against Peter. On the investigations against Peter specifi-cally see: P. Marengon, “Per una revisione dell’interpretazione di Pietro d’Aba-no,” in
 Il pensiero ereticale nella Marca trevigiana e a Venezia, 1200-135
 (AbanoTermi [Padua], 1984), 67-104.
The medical nature of the
 is evidenced by its adoption of thestructure of the most popular comprehensive medical textbooks at the time, suchas Avicenna’s
 and “Johannitus’”
There is no discrete treatise on the soul to be found in Peter’s writings;rather his doctrines have been gleaned from his comments on a variety of othertopics. The (different) texts examined by Hasse and Nardi on the intellect eachconstitute only one of several places that Peter describes the intellectual soul, andnot always consistently.

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