Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Pharmacology in the Renaissance

  • Andreas Blank
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_1104-1


In addition to practical handbooks, academic medicine in the sixteenth century offered various metaphysical accounts of the nature and causal powers of medicaments. One important strand of thought tried to reduce pharmacological powers to elementary qualities and their modifications in mixtures. In this context, the distinction between primary, secondary, and tertiary qualities was discussed. Another strand of thought ascribed so-called pharmacological powers “of the whole substance” to celestial influences. A third strand of thought discussed critically the prospects of applying emergentism – the view that from complex combinations of elementary qualities, new substantial forms with irreducible causal powers could arise – to the analysis of medicaments. While this third strand of thought faced serious ontological difficulties – such as the question of how something substantial could arise from something qualitative and the question of how unities could arise from multiplicities – some Renaissance pharmacologists adopted emergentism for particular groups of medicaments such as purgative drugs.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Blank
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyAlpen-Adria Universität KlagenfurtKlagenfurtAustria

Section editors and affiliations

  • Hiro Hirai
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the History of Philosophy and ScienceRadboud Universiteit NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands