Antyczne źródła renesansowej teorii afektów

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Wydawnictwo Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk

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Ancient origins of the Renaissance theory of affects


The article presents the Renaissance theory of affects, referring to its root in antiquity: the theory of four temperaments was created by Hippocrates and Galen. Furthermore, the article discusses individual bodily fluids and their interrelations that occur (with seasons of the year or stages of life), their influence on man’s dispositions, moreover, it shows interrelation with “psychology of character” and “nature of temperaments”. The topic of humanistic fascinations of Renaissance doctors is also mentioned (exemplified by works of Wojciech Oczko, Józef Struś, Wojciech Naborowski), they were often creators of poetic writings and those who were fascinated by antique culture of literature, philosophy and medicine.


The article deals with the reception of the ancient humoral theory in Polish works of the Renaissance. The reconstruction of the humoral theory is analyzed from its roots – medical schools of Knidos and Kos, through activities of Hippocrates, and especially with the use of Galen’s “concept of tetrads”. Furthermore, following ideas are discussed: the isolation of four bodily fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile and mucus with its qualities (dryness, moistness, coldness and warmth), the four elements, four seasons and four stages of life, up to the quattuor humores theory as “the theory of macrocosm – microcosm”. The presentation of the foundation of theories is to show the relations and interrelations between the flow of bodily fluids and the affects, additionally ‘contamination’ of moods is pointed out as a probable source of hysterias, with Vitello’s concept of visual sensation as caused by madness. Polemic reference to the humoral theory suggested by Paracelsus is also depicted, it outlines innovative and complex character of his work within the main premises of Renaissance medicine. An essential context of the article is the display of humanistic inclinations of Renaissance people of medicine, whose written works became the source-based work for Wojciech Oczko (among other things his staging of “The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys” by Jan Kochanowski), Józef Struś (with the special emphasis on his poetic works) or Wojciech Nowopolski (concentrating, among other things, on his translations of Erasmus of Rotterdam and Greek literature lectures) and medical fascinations of Renaissance writers, for example, Daniel Naborowski.



Antiquity, medicine, affects, temperament, Renaissance, humanism


Symbolae Philologorum Posnaniensium, 2012, nr XXII/1, s. 145-166




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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego