Platform for Fernel-Studies
One Page Outline Proposal
Jean Fernel’s De abditis rerum causis (Paris,
In the history of northern Renaissance medicine, Jean Fernel (1497-1558) played a particularly important role through his textbooks as well as his teaching and practice in the medical faculty of Paris. His treatise entitled De abditis rerum causis (On the Hidden Causes of Things) sets out the foundations of entire medical philosophy. Through a dialogue between three scholars (Eudoxus the Galenist, Brutus the Platonist and Philiatros the Christian layman), Fernel endeavoured, in a very humanist way, to find the “Divine” in natural world, and especially in medicine, by harmonising the different types of ancient wisdom. By this quest, he believed he would find the theoretical base for effective cures for the new diseases then attacking all Europe, such as Syphilis. He tried to reconcile the medical humanists’new Galen with the Christian faith and introduced the Christian Neoplatonism of Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) and Agrippa of Nettesheim (1486-1535) into university medical teaching. His influence on later generation, including not only medics but also natural philosophers, was enormous, as we can observe in the medical and natural philosophical texts of the second half of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century (William Harvey, Jean Riolan the elder, Daniel Sennert, Jacques Gohory, Petrus Severinus, Bernardino Telesio, Francis Bacon and so on). His De abditis rerum causis also permitted Renaissance “occult” oriented philosophers to combine academic Galenism with Paracelsianism and other Neoplatonic trends.
After the ground-breaking work of C. Sherrington (1946), there are only two substantial works on Fernel, both of which are unpublished doctoral dissertations: that of L. A. Deer on Fernel’s embryological theory (1980) and that of J. J. Bono on Fernel’s idea of medical spirits (1981). There is thus no monograph on Fernel, especially on his central work on medical philosophy, the De abditis rerum causis.
I propose to analyse, at the first
stage, the contents and organisation of Fernel’s text in its Galenic,
humanistic and Neoplatonic aspects (briefly touched on in my doctoral
thesis), and then make a survey of its influence in later generations. This
would help me towards a critical edition of and commentary on De abditis
--- Jean Fernel, De abditis rerum causis libri duo
ad Henricum II franciae regem christianissimum, Paris, 1548.