Medicine and Cosmology in Classical Greece: First Principles in Early Greek Medicine
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CitationCamden, David Hayden. 2016. Medicine and Cosmology in Classical Greece: First Principles in Early Greek Medicine. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractIn the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, a number of “doctor-cosmologists” attempted to base the art of healing on the elements, laws, and fundamental forces that govern the universe as a whole. This study examines the major sources for this movement, with the primary goal of understanding how this movement came to be. Chapter 1 examines three second-hand reports: (1) the testimonies on Petron and Philistion in the Anonymus Londiniensis, (2) the speech of Eryximachus in Plato’s Symposium, and (3) On Ancient Medicine. Chapters 2–5 then examine the four most important works by doctor-cosmologists to have survived from the Classical period: On the Nature of the Human Being, On Breaths, On Flesh, and On Regimen. Over the course of this study, I argue that many of the same pressures that led to the production of works like On Regimen in Acute Diseases and the seven books of Epidemics can also be seen in the works of the doctor-cosmologists. All of these medical writers believed that individual variation constitutes a significant impediment to the art, and that the state of medical knowledge can be improved, even perfected, by focusing on what is “common” and “fixed,” that is, on what remains stable when other variables change. Other major conclusions include the observation that On Ancient Medicine is an unreliable witness to what the doctor-cosmologists were doing; that these doctors combined their first principles with more traditional models of pathogenesis; that many of their theories can be elucidated by considering specifically medical modes of thought; and that the author of On Regimen in particular develops a significant theory about the cosmos—a theory that is not only highly developed and internally consistent, but has many affinities with the fragments of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Empedocles.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33840699
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