Galen Versus Erasistratus (and Aristotle): the Case of the Spleen

Mario Vegetti


Galen intends to deny any relationship between Erasistratus and Aristotle, arguing that the former does not follow Aristotelian teleology. The example chosen is the uselessness of the spleen, although Aristotle himself had said that this organ is not teleologically necessary. Through Erasistratus, then, Galen hit the very limitations of the finalism of Aristotle. Galen was not wrong, however, to see in Erasistratus elements of mechanism (probably influenced by the Hellenistic technology) and of the Epicurean epistemology. Such features separate Erasistratus system of medicine from the vitalistic tradition of Hippocrates, Aristotle and the Stoics.


Key words: Galen - Erasistratus - Aristotle - Teleology

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