Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73


Maija Kallinen, On the Origin of Souls

The academic community of the early modern Germany became involved in a heated dispute over the origin of souls in the first part of the 17th century. The University of Wittenberg stood in the midst of the dispute, which was driven mainly by physicists and medics, not theologians. This article describes how physical, metaphysical and theological arguments intermingled in the publications written by two generations of disputing scholars: Professor of Medicine Daniel Sennert (1572–1637) from the University of Wittenberg was attacked by Johannes Freitag (1581–1641), also a Professor of Medicine in Helmstedt and later in Groningen. In Wittenberg the dispute was carried over to the most prominent disciple of Sennert, the Professor of Physics Johannes Sperling (1603–1658), who in turn was ever more vehemently opposed by the Professor of Physics at the University of Jena, Johannes Zeisold (1599–1677).

The two main opposing viewpoints were those of Traducianism and Creationism. In this context, Traducianism refers to a theory according to which a child’s soul is kindled by the souls of the parents like a flame from a spark, and transmitted to a new individual in the same moment of conception as the physical conception took place. This view, favoured by the wittenbergian scholars, was regarded important in order to explain the propagation of the original sin. The Creationist scholars, on the other hand, presumed that because the human soul was regarded as immortal, it had to be directly created by God for each individual. Thus, for them, the physical and spiritual generation of man were two separate processes.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73