Renaissance Medicine, Astrology and Dream Interpretation

Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting
Friday, 28 March 2014
New York Hilton Midtown, Concourse D
1:15–2:45 p.m.

Organizers: Hiro Hirai (Radboud University) and H. Darrel Rutkin (University of Nevada, Reno)
Sponsor: Japanese Association for Renaissance Studies (JARS)
Chair: Nancy G. Siraisi (Hunter College)
Respondent: Anthony Grafton (Princeton University)

H. Darrel Rutkin
On Deriving Life from the Heavens: Astrology, Medicine and Magic in Marsilio Ficino’s De vita (1489)

Although it is well known that astrology played a significant role in Marsilio Ficino’s De vita libri tres, and especially its third book, the De vita coelitus comparanda, the full range of its astrological dimensions has never been satisfactorily explored. In this talk, I will move towards fulfilling this desideratum by describing the three main realms in which Ficino used astrological techniques and ideas towards a medical end—namely, practical astrology, astrological medicine and talismanic magic—within the context of his Platonizing articulation of astrology’s natural philosophical foundations.

Hiro Hirai and Emi Enomoto
Astrology, Dream Interpretation and Daemons in Cardano’s On My Life

On My Life is the autobiography of the famous Milanese physician, Girolamo Cardano (1501–1576/77). It was posthumously published in Paris in 1643 by the editorship of the French scholar Gabriel Naudé (1600–1653). This piece of work, extremely complex and difficult to understand for modern readers, is richly illustrated by elements based on Cardano’s personal dream interpretations, and its structure borrows models from Greek astrology and medicine. It is also colored by his lifelong experience of phenomena related to his “guardian spirit,” which finally appeared in the guise of his father, Fazio. This paper tries to decipher these elements by using his other writings, namely the Commentary on Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos (1554), On My Own Books (1557 and 1562), Books on Synesian Dreams (1562) and Dialogue between Girolamo and his Father Fazio (written ca. 1574).


Anthony Grafton
Response to “Medicine, Astrology and Dream Interpretation”