The physician of the soul: medicine and practical ethics in Galen


  • Dr Sofia Xenofontos

    University of Glasgow

Project summary

This project aims to shed light on Galen’s role as a moralist and soul doctor, an aspect of his intellectual profile that has been little studied and poorly understood.

I will holistically examine psychological and ethical works alongside a large number of technical tracts – both medical and philosophical – that have moral and/or moralising elements and connotations. The goal is to give prominence to the dynamic interdependence between medicine and practical ethics in its historical, social, and cultural context. I will ask how Galen adjusted his moral agenda to the needs and requirements of contemporary elite life, how he communicated his ethical teachings and to whom. I will also look at the techniques he used to assign himself moral authority and how successful this was.

The project will place Galen firmly in the tradition of philosophical writing on the therapy of emotions,  helping us to properly reassess his influence on later Arab moralists/physicians. The project will be the starting point for more in-depth research on the reception of Galenic (and not just Hippocratic) medical ethics in modern medicine.