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GIF-Projekt: The Galenic Tradition in Arabic and Hebrew



Most of the key treatises on science and philosophy that were translated into Arabic and later into Hebrew and Latin belong to major traditions. One of the most important of these traditions, and the least studied, is the Galenic tradition. The many dozens of works written, ascribed to, or deriving from the momentous output of Galen deal for the most part with medicine, but they are by no means limited to that branch of knowledge. Philosophy, physics, and psychology, and other disciplines as well, have a major presence in the Galenic tradition. Galenic views on natural philosophy were inculcated as part of the education of physicians, and they remained an important alternative to the Aristotelian, neoplatonic, and kalam world-views.

In order to further our knowledge of this important tradition, we plan to take some "deep soundings" from the Galenic tradition. After careful consideration and deliberation, we have settled upon three texts for this project. Between them they cover the critical aspects of the Galenic corpus: medicine and philosophy, authentic and pseudepigraphic, original and derivative. Moreover, these are texts that one or both of the principal investigators has already been studying for sometime, and, in the case of the first selection, the two have already collaborated in studying it.

Our editions and studies will first and foremost make known the contents of these texts, thus enriching our knowledge about the medieval and associated philosophical and physical doctrines that reigned throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissence. Moreover, by studying derivative and pseudepigraphic writings, we will obtain a picture of the full scope of "Galenic" science, even if not all of it can be traced to authentic writings of the great teacher. Close philological analysis will reveal the ways in which a scientific Arabic terminology took form as well as the occasional transformations of meanings that resulted from the translation process. Finally, these deep soundings will allow us to take a more informed decision as to how to proceed in the investigation of the corpus as a whole.

These texts are:

  • On Critical Days ("Alexandrian" summary).
    This text deals with the timing of the crisis during an ailment. It contains important statements of the Galenic tradition concerning astrology and Pythagorean arithmology.

  • On the Soul.
    This short pseudo-Galenic treatise contains brief pronouncements on basic psychology and related issues. It will be edited and translated on the basis of the existing Hebrew translation, which is found in many manuscripts. There are no Arabic versions extant.

  • On the Elements According to Hippocrates.
    A detailed conspectus of the commentaries, summaries, and derivative texts in Arabic and Hebrew will be prepared. Special emphasis will be given to discussions of atomism.