About the project
I study Thomas Aquinas’s (1225-1274) conception of madness and its historical background. In addition to theological and philosophical focus, I will investigate my sources from legal and medical perspectives. In the Middle Ages, madness was understood as a physiological condition that sets restrictions to one’s capacity to use reason, and therefore, it is also a question of one’s status in both spiritual and societal communities.
My research is important because the way we understand mental normality and disability today, stems from the history of the human mind and the body, and especially from the concepts thereof. My research focuses on this fundamental topic. Aquinas’s thinking is a prominent example of medieval understanding of the issue. He combines ideas of madness as a medical condition from the Antiquity, Aristotle’s theory of the human being, and Roman legal tradition together with the Christian doctrines.
Methodologically, my thesis will be based on a systematic analysis of Aquinas’s texts. I will especially analyze the primarily used concepts for madness in Aquinas’s works such as amentia, furia, and phreneticis. They are best translated as ‘madness’ or ‘mental disorder’ because ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ are modern concepts. I will investigate the similarities and differences between all the aforementioned concepts and their ancient origins. I will also consider whether it is possible to indicate a pattern in how these concepts are used in the medieval texts. I will also consider such topics as dreaming, passions, and prophesy that are all related to madness in Aquinas’s texts.
Master of Theology from the University of Helsinki