Human nature: medical and philosophical perspectives in the work of Galen of Pegamum


Galen of Pergamum (129 c-213 CE) may count as the father of western medicine, whose influence dominated European medical history until well into the 19th century. But he saw himself as a philosopher no less than a doctor, and in his voluminous writings we find medical and philosophical perspectives combined. This project aims to explore Galen's theory of human nature from a variety of relevant aspects: physiological, psychological, moral, philosophical and religious. Drawing on various traditions, Galen developed an original and powerful synthesis that secured his unequalled authority in both the Christian and the Muslim world of later centuries. At the same time the theory he formulated was not without its blind spots and unresolved tensions. These are however intriguing in themselves and merit closer inspection with a view to clarifying his position and its intellectual background.

Galen's conception of human nature is fundamental to all of his work. An improved understanding of it will cast welcome light not only on Galen himself but on the subsequent history of medicine on which he made such a profound impact. The project is moreover designed to contribute to present-day debates on health, well-being and illness, concepts of humanity in bio-ethics, the societal role of medicine and the doctor as well as multidisciplinarity and discipline-formation.


Chapter in book

  • JA Lopez Ferez, TL Tieleman(2015): Galeno: pp. 93 - 108 , Madrid
  • G Etzelmüller, TL Tieleman, A Weissenrieder(2016): Religion and Illness pp. 15 - 31 , Eugene OR
  • TL Tieleman(2018): Aëtiana IV pp. 453 - 473 , Leiden-Boston

Scientific article

Professional publication

  • TL Tieleman(2015): De menselijk natuur pp. 8 - 11


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. T.L. Tieleman

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Departement Wijsbegeerte

Team members

Dr. A Celkyte, Dr. J Trompeter, R.W. Vinkesteijn


01/12/2015 to 31/08/2019