iCHSTM 2013 Programme • Version 5.3.6, 27 July 2013 • ONLINE (includes late changes)
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Plato’s Timaeus had a profound influence on the philosophical and medical discourses of medieval Islam. It is unclear whether the dialogue itself was translated into Arabic in the Middle Ages, and very strong arguments have been put forward recently that the only Arabic versions of the text were transmitted through the exegetical treatments of Galen, Plotinus, and Proclus. Galen’s principal contribution to the Arabic tradition of the Timaeus is to demonstrate the relevance of Plato’s text to the fields of medical theory and practice. This paper will show that Ibn Sīnā makes use of certain ideas derived from Timaeus when outlining basic medical theories in his encyclopaedic Canon of Medicine (Qānūn fī ṭ-ṭibb). Specifically, it will be argued that certain aspects of the discussion of pleasure and pain in Ibn Sīnā’s Canon very strongly resemble Galen’s account of bodily sensation in his lemmatic commentary On the Medical Aspects of Plato’s Timaeus. In general, this paper aims to draw attention to the correlation between the transfer of medical and philosophical knowledge in the Islamic world.