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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010

3 - Demiurge and Emperor in Galen's world of knowledge

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Summary

The Emperor – this world-soul – I saw riding through the city to review his troops. It is indeed a wonderful feeling to see such an individual who, here concentrated into a single point, reaches out over the world and dominates it.

Hegel, 1806

The presence of a wise, powerful, skilful and provident creator figure – alternately labelled ‘nature’ (phusis) and ‘demiurge’ (dēmiourgos) – is absolutely key to Galen's thinking, to the medical and philosophical system he constructs and articulates. This figure has, however, not yet been subject to the intensity of scholarly scrutiny that its structural significance demands. This chapter is an attempt to fill in some of these gaps by investigating, in a more focused manner than hitherto, questions about where Galen's notion of nature and the demiurge comes from and about the work it does in his world of knowledge. I examine the intellectual resources that Galen drew on in fashioning his creator, what is traditional and what original in his formulation, and the identity of both its past precedents and the contemporary features it shares, as well as the motivations that he may have had in producing the particular package that he did.

Two specific, and connected, arguments will be put forward, following on from some more general points about Galen's demiurge, his notion of nature, as it appears and functions within his medical system and fits into his wider cultural context.