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Medicine and Philosophy III: Contagion and Fascination

From:Mo 06-12-2021
Until:Tu 07-12-2021

Call for papers: 6-7 December 2021 Zoom Workshop

Organized by

Alessandra Beccarisi (Lecce)
Martin Lenz (Groningen)
Evelina Miteva (Lecce/Cluj/Cologne)

Most of us probably don’t doubt that much of our (mental) lives are determi­ned by education, biases and ideologies; much of our knowledge relies on the testimony of others; our beliefs can be strengthened by the authority of others; our emotions might change in the presence of friends; our inclination to act can be triggered by the courage of others; our thoughts might be com­pleted by the perspective of others. But what precisely explains how others affect our mental states? Historians of philosophy often study such questions in relation to psychological, linguistic and moral theories. However, lurking in the background of philosophical models are medical assumptions whose exposition often sheds new light on ancient, medieval and modern debates.

In the third instalment of the workshop “Medicine and Philosophy” we want to focus our attention on contagion and fascination. Are ideas seen as transmitted from mind to mind like diseases from body to body? “Contagion” and “fascination” are central terms that figure at the intersection of many philosophical and physiological discussions in Middle Ages, Renaissance and Early Modern times. What is the common ground between those two concep­ts? The idea that a person could influence the body, the emotions or the mental states of another person from a distance was not always connected to conta­gion. Fascination was the medieval term for transmitting an influence from one person to another at a distance, without direct physical contact. This was seen as a natural phenomenon, part of natural magie, which became an even more influential idea in the Renaissance. With the development of natural sciences, Early modern authors developed the idea of contagion as a way of transmitting bodily and mental states at a distance. Giving rise to debates about human mentality, physiology and politics, these notions impacted doctrines about the transmission of thoughts, images and emotions between people as well as well as the contagious nature of certain diseases. Focusing on the history of these and related notions, this workshop aims at stimulating exchange between historians of philosophy and experts in natu­ral philosophy whose work often speaks more to one another than meets the eye.

Please send an abstract to Martin Lenz (m.lenz by June 1, 2021. The abstract must be no longer than 300 words, prepared for blind reviewing and sent as a .docx file (please do not use pdf format). The subject of the mail should be “MediPhil“. The author’s name and contact information (name, affiliation, email and professional status – graduate student, postdoc, lectu­rer etc.) should also be specified in your message.