The Influence of the “Final Cause Doctrine” on Anatomists of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries Concerning Selected Anatomical Structures of the Head and Neck.

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Lydiatt, Daniel
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The “Doctrine of Final Cause” taken from Aristotle’s (384 B.C.-322 B.C.) “causes”, and modified by Claudius (Aelius) Galen (Galen of Pergamon) (129 A.D.- 216 A.D.) stated that for an anatomical part to exist it must have a cause. This final cause was not an endpoint but a purpose or goal, and that cause could be natural or divine. This had profound effects on the thinking of renaissance anatomists. I explore the final cause doctrine’s relationship with human head and neck anatomy according to Aristotle and Galen from antiquity and from the perspective of important anatomists of the renaissance period from the early sixteenth to the late seventeenth century. The anatomists’ writings about the final cause doctrine were influenced by religious and political beliefs and varied from humanistic to reactionary. Tracing controversies concerned with the anatomy of the head and neck through these anatomist’s works, reveal the Renaissance humanism of Vesalius and others paralleling the humanists of art and literature. These controversies illustrate the ways in which the anatomists used the body to demonstrate function, uses, and causes from a higher source. Humanists advanced the social, philosophical, intellectual, literary, and medical/anatomical thought of the period from 1400 to the late 17th century. They stood between the Christian church of the middle ages and the modern world of science. Like religion, medicine and anatomy had its own revealed sources of knowledge and sacred texts such as Galen’s. Vesalius’ Fabrica and the woodcuts established with suddenness the beginning of modern observational science and art as the direct and faithful representation of natural phenomena. They displayed the human body in a way others could understand, but also displayed the errors of the ancients, including Galen, bringing Vesalius into conflict with the church. The most important knowledge to acquire for an anatomical part during the Renaissance was why does it exist. Evolutionary scientists of today see mutations that are favorable or unfavorable depending on the current environment. These mutations are random or directed by a divine plan or nature, depending on what side of the debate you are that began in the Renaissance.
Creighton University
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