Brilliance and Melancholy

Jennifer Radden

in The Nature of Melancholy

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195151657
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849253 | DOI:
Brilliance and Melancholy

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This chapter presents Aristotle's (or a follower of Artistotle's) discussion of melancholy in Problems. The authorship of the Problems is in considerable doubt. Most authorities believe it to be the work of one of Aristotle's followers, perhaps Theophrastus. Nevertheless, its attribution to Aristotle in part accounts for its enormous influence, it is at least “Aristotelian,” and it fits well with the rest of Aristotle's work on biology and medicine. The author of this Aristotelian discussion begins with a question: Why is it that brilliance and achievement are associated with black bile and the diseases of melancholy? Each element of this approach may be challenged, not least its insufficiently supported assumption that brilliance and achievement are associated with melancholy. Yet because of the authority of its alleged author and the boldness of its approach, subsequent thinkers, particularly during the Renaissance, which saw a revival of interest in Aristotelian writing on melancholy, accepted the assumption without question and proceeded to the challenge of answering the question posed. An appeal to Homeric heroes is offered as evidence of the link between brilliance and melancholia.

Keywords: Aristotle; melancholy; brilliance; Homer; black bile; Renaissance

Chapter.  2683 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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