CSMBR | From Body to Soul: Mental Disorders in Hildegard of Bingen’s “Cause et Cure”

This event has passed.

@ 9:30 am - 10:30 am

From Body to Soul: Mental Disorders in Hildegard of Bingen’s “Cause et Cure”

The Cause et cure of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is both a cosmological text and a medical handbook. This double aspect, so to speak, of the work is not surprising: in medieval Europe, human beings and nature are deeply interconnected. As the title Cause et cure suggests, most of the work focuses on the causes and natural treatment of several diseases. Hildegard’s idea of disease is very different from the present one: sickness always derives from a physiological change in the body. The reference framework is the humoral theory, according to which the four humours, or bodily fluids, (i.e. blood, and phlegm, yellow bile and black bile) affect temperament, physical qualities and health. However, some diseases described in the Cause et cure mainly affect mood and behaviour and, in this regard, they can be assimilated into the modern concept of mental disorders. My lecture will analyse the passages of Cause et cure devoted to diseases that affect mood and behaviour, with a special focus on their causes and their possible treatment. This allows us to highlight both Hildegard’s ideas on the relationship between soul and body, and the medieval concept of mental illness.

Organized in collaboration with the Centre for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists–University of Paderborn, this series seeks to understand the role of women in the history of medicine by exploring their contributions in fields such as natural philosophy, household remedies, plant manipulation and selection, as well as midwifery.