Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Project titel: Localization of the Avicennean inner senses in a Hippocratic body.
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Johannes Pahlitzsch, Prof. Dr. Jochen Althoff, Prof. Dr. Thomas Efferth, Prof. Dr. Tanja Pommerening
Medieval scholars in both Europe and the Islamicate world believed that in addition to the five "outer" or "external" senses (i.e., touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight), there also existed a set of "inner" senses. It was generally believed that this set of inner senses, which were seated in the ventricles of the brain, process and cogitate sensory information. While in Europe the concept of Inner Senses belongs to history, in the Middle East it is still very much alive in the context of humoral medicine, as practiced today. The present study aims to discuss the underlying mechanics of the development, and survival, of the theory of Inners Senses in the framework of humoral medicine.
The tenth-century Iranian philosopher and physician Avicenna has offered one of the most sophisticated and influential accounts of the theory of the inner senses amongst medieval scholars. To formulate the theory of Inner Senses, and to integrate it into a medical framework, Avicenna drew heavily on antique and late antique sources. This study would focus on Avicenna's version of the theory and contextualize it in the tenth-century Islamicate world, and then go back in time as far as Aristotle for the theoretical origins of the concepts of Inner Senses.
The present study addresses the theory of medicine and the extent of practice that has shaped medical theory and it mainly deals with textual material. It aims to reach an immanent understanding of the theory of inner senses in the framework of the humoral medical paradigm. This study does not only contextualize Avicenna's work historically, but also tracks the development of the theory of the inner senses with regard to its (social, cultural, religious and medical) environment. It would thus demonstrate what happens to ideas as they are borrowed and transferred beyond linguistic and ideological borders.