Remembering by Heart: Giulio Aleni on the Heart, Brain, and Soul


Abstract
Unlike similar works, Xingxue Cushu 性學觕述 by the Italian Jesuit missionary Giulio Aleni sought to deliver the Christian doctrine into China by introducing Western medicine. The conflict between the Christian concept of the soul and the traditional psychic concept in China made the task difficult. Scholasticism rejects the idea that an individual’s soul may be physically divided or localized, whereas the Chinese tradition largely assumes the contrary and regards the heart as the center of one’s psychic powers or vitality. Aleni addressed this conflict by reducing the mind to the function of the brain for sensitive memory. Chinese physicians accepted Aleni’s concept of brain-related memory. However, his claim of an immaterial soul was ignored, and the Western connection between brain and memory was misinterpreted and subjected to Chinese cardiocentrism; thus, the physically centered psychic concept that underlies Chinese philosophy persisted.
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DOI 10.1007/s11712-019-09705-z
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