Prisca Theologia and Human Nature: A Study of Marsilio Ficino's Ontology of the Soul.
AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH
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The term spirit, spiritus, pneuina, or ruach, has been given a variety of ontological definitions. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the ambiguous nature of spirit, D.P. Walker claims that little scholarship has been done on the history of the medical spirit. As recently as l972, Walker knew of no modern work on medical spirits besides his own two recent publications. 1 He asserts that one of the only adequate general studies of spirit in antiquity is G. Verbekes LEvolution de la Doctrine du Pneuina du Stoicisine a S. Aujustin Paris, 1945 Although it took on various forms, the ontological nature of pneurna in the Western mind had always been associated with the vital life principle that linked and sustained body and soul. In its most primitive pre-Socratic form, pneuina began as some combination of the four basic elements fire, air, water, and earth. Homer used it variously as air or breath, and Anaximenes indirectly suggested that it was air.2 The Pythagoreans explicitly referred to it as air and breath, and asserted that pneuina and void are inhaled by the universe. 3 A more sophisticated medical notion of pneuina arose in the speculative thought of some fifth-century writers, in which it was linked to respiration, cognition, and the vital principle. Diogenes of Apollonia considered it to be the vital principle of all things, and Theophrastus believed it to be the source of both sensible and intellectual cognition. He asserted that pneuina is dry and hot air trapped in the body, and that it circulates through the body with the blood.4 JMD
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