Die Mensch-Tier-Differenz in der gelehrten Medizin des Mittelalters


In late medieval medicine, the distinction be­tween humans and animals plays a constitutive role. The anthropological difference is emphasised in key texts dealing with the theory of medicine. However, with the detachment of humans from animals, medicine seems to be in a quandary, which is due to the basic principles of healing and the self-image as a scientific discipline. On the one hand, medicine defines itself as a natural science (physica) whose object is the noblest body, namely that of man, who is considered the “noblest animal” because of his intellective soul. On the other hand, however, medicine does not seem to be concerned with this distinguishing feature – the human soul or intellect – but with the body alone. That this body is to be understood and treated ac­cording to the same natural laws and causalities as other animal bodies is beyond doubt, as shown, for example, by the humoral-pathological paradigm, by anatomy, or by the primarily physical therapy of mental illness. The paper discusses how representatives of university med­icine in the late Middle Ages, including Pietro d’Abano, Bernardo da Firenze, and Niccolò Falcucci, attempted to elevate their discipline philosophically while reinforcing the anthropological difference. It is argued that with the desire for recognition as a scientific discipline and dom­inance over other arts and creatures occurs a shift in the medical perspective, toward ideal philosophical images of man and away from the basic needs of disease-prone individual human beings.


‘Conciliator’, Human–Animal Studies, Medieval Medicine, Medieval Philosophy, Nobility