Donnerstag, 26. November 2015

PhD project by Shahrzad Irannejad: "Localization of the Avicennean Inner Senses in a Hippocratic body"

A report by Valeria Zubieta Lupo.

On November 19th, Shahrzad Irannejad presented her PhD project and gave us some insights into her research. The main aim of her study is to analyse the route and extent of the integration of the theory of the inner senses in humoral medicine. Her research addresses the migration of the ideas regarding the inner senses from philosophy to medicine and from Ancient Greece to the medieval Arabo-Islamic world. Furthermore, she will also track the development of the theory with regard to their (social, cultural, religious and medical) environment.
 
Medieval scholars in both Europe and in the Islamic world believed that in addition to the five "outer" or "external" senses (i.e., touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight), there was also a set of "inner" senses or Internal Perceptive faculties. These inner senses were generally localized in the ventricles of the brain (Fn. 1).
 
The details of the account of inner senses differed somewhat from one medieval writer to another. According to Miss Irannejad, instead, bits and pieces of it were developed here and there in the Ancient World, gradually accumulating into the full medieval version. The tenth century Iranian philosopher and physician Avicenna (370/980-428/1037) has been claimed to have offered the most comprehensive account of the inner senses (Fn. 2).
 
According to Avicenna's cannon of medicine work, there are five internal senses (Fn. 3). The first is the "sensus communis" (ḥiss ol-moshtarak), which serves as an interface between the five outer senses and the soul; only through which it is possible to perceive with different senses at the same time. The second inner sense is the "receptive imagination" (ḵhayāl), the reservoir of perceived images through sensus communis. Next is the "estimation/faculty of instinctive Apprehension" (wāhimah), which perceives the intentions beyond sensible forms; it allows humans and animals to make instinctive judgments, for instance, that a wolf is dangerous.
 
The fourth faculty is the "compositive Imagination" (motakhayyilah) that combines the images preserved in receptive imagination it is associated with thinking. Lastly, the fifth inner sense, "memorative faculty" (ḥāfiẓah), is a repository of the intentions perceived by estimation and the produced imaged by compositive imagination.

Various classical authors probably influenced Avicenna's theories and knowledge on the brain: The general sketch of the inner senses from Aristotle, cerebral anatomy from Galen, ventricular localization from Nemesius, and the humoral paradigm from Hippocrates, Aristotle, Plato, Stoics, and Galen. Additionally, Avicenna is the most prevalently cited author in the next generations, and is an important case, as he has retained a prominent place in both philosophy and medicine.
 
The research of Miss Irannejad deals mainly with textual material, which will each be duly contextualized. Of main interest to her study is the Avicennean corpus and other medical texts produced in the framework of Arabo-Islamic tradition of Greek humoral medicine with regard to the theory of the inner senses. 

 The major questions that her study intents to address are the following:
  • Why did the theory of inner senses survive in the context of medicine: was the theory applicable in medical practice? Why did the theory of inner senses survive?
  • To what extent was theory of inner senses integrated into the realm of humoral medicine?
  • What mechanisms underlay the expansion of the Aristotelian sensus communis and phantasia into the five Avicennean inner senses?
  • Why the inner senses were localized inside the 'ventricles' and not the substance of the brain?
 
In order to answer these questions, she will review the medical and philosophical works of Avicenna about the theory of the inner senses and whether or not they were applied in explanation and diagnosis of the diseases of the head. Furthermore, she will make a reverse chronological study of philosophical and medical texts in the Greco-Arabic tradition. In the course, she will address each agent who has made alterations in the theory of the inner senses in the Greco-Arabic tradition with regard his cultural, social and religious context.

Footnotes:
[1] Kemp, Simon/Fletcher, Garth J. O.: The Medieval Theory of the Inner Senses. In: The American Journal of Psychology, Bd. 106 (1993), H. 4, S. 559–576.
[2] Goichon, A.-M.: "IBN SINA, Abu 'Ali al-Husayn b. 'Abd Allah b. Sina, known in the West as Avicenna". In: Encyclopedia of Islam. Koninklijke Brill NV (1999), Leiden, The Netherlands.
[3] Pormann, Peter E.: Avicenna on medical practice, epistemology, and the physiology of the inner senses. In: Interpreting Avicenna, Critical Essays, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2013), S. 91–108.

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