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‘Quid sit anima’: Juan Luis Vives on the soul and its relation to the body

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On account of his insights into human nature and conduct, the Renaissance humanist Juan Luis Vives (1493–1540) has occasionally been called ‘the father of modern psychology’. Even if the praise regarding his originality is not completely undeserved, it is something of an exaggeration to consider him the initiator of modern psychology without further qualifications. The aim of the present article is to analyse Vives's discussion of the general notion of the soul in his treatise De anima et vita (1538), and to show how deeply rooted it is in the tradition of philosophical psychology that goes back to Plato and Aristotle. Special attention is also paid to the influence of traditional medical theories, such as Galen's conception of the bodily instruments of the soul. Moreover, following the Neoplatonic tradition, Vives uses the analogy of light to explain how an immaterial soul can be united with, but not affected by, a physical body. It is argued that this approach is based on Nemesius of Emesa's treatise De natura hominis, a source that has not been duly appreciated in previous studies.

Keywords: Juan Luis Vives; Renaissance; body; psychology; soul

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-4658.2010.00641.x

Affiliations: University of Uppsala

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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