Greek Rational Medicine: Philosophy and Medicine from Alcmaeon to the Alexandrians

By James Longrigg | Go to book overview

Introduction

Die Philosophic ist die Mutter der Medizin in wissenschaftlichen Rücksicht, und das Wachstum der einen steht mit der Zunahme der anderen Wissenschaft in ungetrennlicher Verbindung.

(K. Sprengel, Versuch einer pragmatischen Geschichte der Arzneikunde, 1846, p. 2)

One of the most impressive contributions of the ancient Greeks to Western culture was their invention of rational medicine. It was the Greeks who first evolved rational systems of medicine for the most part free from magical and religious elements and based upon natural causes. The importance of this revolutionary innovation for the subsequent history of medicine can hardly be overstressed. Here for the first time in the history of medicine was displayed a strikingly rational attitude which resulted in a radically new conception of disease whose causes and symptoms were now accounted for in purely natural terms.

This emancipation of medicine from superstition was the outcome of precisely the same attitude of mind which the Milesian natural philosophers had been the first to apply to the world about them. The natural philosophers’ attempts to explain the world without recourse to supernatural intervention brought about a transition from mythological conjecture to rational explanation. Just as the natural philosophers had sought to explain in purely natural terms such frightening phenomena as earthquakes, thunder and lightning, and eclipses, which had previously been regarded as manifestations of supernatural powers, so the same outlook was applied by the medical authors of Hippocratic treatises to explain such frightening diseases as epilepsy (the ‘Sacred

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Greek Rational Medicine: Philosophy and Medicine from Alcmaeon to the Alexandrians
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Pre-Rational and Irrational Medicine in Greece and Neighbouring Cultures 6
  • 2 - Ionian Natural Philosophy and the Origins of Rational Medicine 26
  • 3 - Philosophy and Medicine in the Fifth Century I 47
  • 4 - Philosophy and Medicine in the Fifth Century II 82
  • 5 - Post-Hippocratic Medicine I 104
  • 6 - Post-Hippocratic Medicine II 149
  • 7 - Early Alexandrian Medical Science 177
  • Appendix 220
  • Notes 227
  • Bibliography 260
  • Index Locorum 278
  • General Index 287
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