Philipp Lachenmann: DELPHI Rationale


The Soul Is an Octopus

27.04.2016, Berlin | What does the soul consist of? How does it govern the human body, and where it is located? These questions will be explored by the exhibition “The Soul Is an Octopus: Ancient Ideas of Life and the Body,” which will be on view at the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité from May 11 until September 11, 2016. It presents key conceptions of body and soul that were developed by physicians and philosophers between 500 BC and 500 AD and connects them to our ideas today.

Die Seele ist ein Oktopus

While the exhibition focuses mainly on the widely received and discussed views of Aristotle and Galen, it also presents less well-known perspectives, such as the Stoics’ view that the soul spreads through the body like the tentacles of an octopus. Besides precious medical instruments, ancient votive body parts, and luxuriously painted Attic drinking bowls, the exhibition also features large-format graphics that translate its contents into contemporary visual language. The resulting insights into the ancients’ understanding of the soul and the body not only help us recognize the roots of some of our medical views today, but also invite us to empathize with and enjoy alternative perspectives.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a lecture series featuring historians of medicine and of philosophy, archaeologists and physicians as well as a richly illustrated 140-page catalogue, which can be ordered through the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité or Edition Topoi.

The Soul Is an Octopus

Opening: May 10, 2016, 7 p.m.
Duration: May 11 – September 11, 2016

Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité
Lecture Hall Ruin
Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin
Campus address: Virchowweg 16

Opening hours:
Tue, Thu, Fri, Sun, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wed and Sat, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Admission: € 7 / € 3.50 (reduced)

Lecture Series

All lectures will take place from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

in the Lecture Hall Ruin at the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité.

Please note: Unless otherwise indicated, the lectures will be in German.

May 10, 2016
Soul and Autopsy: Ideas of the Relationship between Soul and Body in Ancient Anatomy and Physiology
Heinrich von Staden, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

May 17, 2016
The Mystery of Presence and the Comparative History of the Soul

Shigehisa Kuriyama, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA) – lecture in English

May 31, 2016
Health in Antiquity (working title)
Orly Lewis, Department of Classics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Chiara Thumiger, Department of Classics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Philip van der Eijk, Department of Classics, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

June 14, 2016
Health, Lifestyle and Responsibility in the Ancient Medical and Philosophical Thought
Philip van der Eijk, Humboldt University Berlin

June 28, 2016
Ergalia – Instrumenta: The Physician and His Instruments in Antiquity
Antje Krug

July 12, 2016
The Organ of the Soul Today: Brain Research and Psychology
Henrik Walter, Division of Mind and Brain Research, Charité University Hospital, Berlin

A cooperation of the Cluster of Excellence “Topoi,” the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship of Classics and History of Science at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité; with support from the Ernst Schering Foundation.

pdf Invitation Card and Program


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