Empathy, Motion and Emotion

Freedberg, David A.

Take two subjects often by encountered by historians of art: the Conversion of St Paul and the Ecstasy of St Teresa. In their pathfinding article on sudden religious conversions in cases of temporal lobe epilepsy, Dewhurst and Baird recalled the suggestion, first made by Lombroso in 1864, that St Paul’s conversion, with its auditory hallucinations, photism, and temporary blindness, was the result not of a mystical experience (whatever that may involve), but of an epileptic seizure.

They believed that St Teresa of Avila’s visions, chronic headaches and transient 2 losses of consciousness could be attributed to temporal lobe epilepsy.

In the case of St Paul, William James was appropriately sceptical about what he called “medical materialism”, and of physical explanations of Paul’s conversion in terms of “a ‘discharging lesion’ of the occipital cortex” (as an alternative to the mystical 3 hypothesis). Significantly, Dewhurst and Beard preferred to overlook his scepticism. Others suggested that St Paul’s hallucinations may simply have resulted from the fact that he was a tired traveller who had neglected his midday siesta; or that his conscience was possibly complicated by a “migraine-like syndrome”.


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Wie sich Gefühle Ausdruck verschaffen: Emotionen in Nahsicht

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Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
April 7, 2010