A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine

By Karsten Friis Johansen | Go to book overview

7

MEDICAL SCIENCE

Parmenides' criticism of the presuppositions of earlier natural philosophy had led to conceptual and methodological clarification and to the formulation of two possible explanations of the cosmos: a theory of a continuum and a theory of particles. But the competing schools could agree about very little, and it is small cause for wonder that a general scepticism prevailed concerning philosophical explanations altogether. Such scepticism was voiced by the Greek physicians. One theory might be as good as the next, and what was the use of occupying oneself with 'things in heaven and below the earth', they asked (cf. Hipp. Nat. hom. 1; Vet. med. 1). The protest by Greek medicine against philosophy is the first revolt of empiricism against rationalism.

Towards the end of the fifth century BC Greek medicine had undergone a not insignificant development. Next to mathematics it was the only specialized science, and it had been developed with relative independence of philosophy. Towards the end of the century the great master of medicine, Hippocrates (born c.460), lived on the Isle of Cos near the coast of Asia Minor, where he apparently directed a 'school' or guild of physicians. We know little about his personal contribution, but thanks to the authority he enjoyed in his own time and later, a considerable number of writings were attributed to him. The 'Hippocratic writings' that have been preserved are far more numerous than the preserved Presocratic fragments-several of them must have been written in the fifth and fourth century (most likely none before 440 BC), but some are of a much later date; it is possible that some of the oldest were written by Hippocrates himself. There are considerable differences between the individual treatises both in points of view and method-there are also different medical 'schools'-and it is a likely hypothesis that the 'Hipppocratic writings' actually were a medical library. But in spite of differences it is possible to focus on some common features that cause these writings to be of interest also in the history of philosophy.

The Hippocratic writings are in part directed against magic, in part against philosophy-and yet it goes without saying that behind the criticism, a philosophic influence can be traced to a greater or lesser extent. The oldest writings clearly belong in a general, late fifth-century context, and such names as Heraclitus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, and Democritus are obvious in the background.

The physicians' criticism of philosophy applies to natural philosophy in general, but first and foremost to tendencies to make medicine itself speculative

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A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Presocratic Philosophy 9
  • 1 - Myth, Poetry and Philosophy 11
  • 2 - Ionian Natural Philosophy 20
  • 3 - Heraclitus 29
  • 4 - The Pythagoreans 36
  • 5 - The Eleatics 45
  • 6 - Post-Parmenidean Natural Philosophy 59
  • 7 - Medical Science 79
  • Part II - The Great Century of Athens 83
  • 8 - Pericles' Athens 85
  • 9 - Tragedy and View of History 88
  • 10 - The Sophists 99
  • 11 - Socrates 118
  • Part III - Plato 137
  • 12 - Life, Works and Position 139
  • 13 - What is Virtue? Can Virtue Be Taught? 160
  • 14 - Idea and Man 173
  • 15 - The Good Constitution of State and Man 198
  • 16 - The Late Dialogues: Knowledge and Being 213
  • 17 - The Late Dialogues: Nature, Man and Society 236
  • 18 - Plato and the Early Academy 254
  • Part IV - Aristotle 267
  • 19 - Life, Works and Position 269
  • 20 - Logic and Theory of Science 293
  • 21 - Natural Philosophy and Psychology 316
  • 22 - Metaphysics and Theology 343
  • 23 - Ethics and Politics 366
  • 24 - Rhetoric and Poetics 392
  • 25 - The Early Peripatetics 400
  • Part V - Hellenistic Philosophy 405
  • 26 - Science and Philosophy 407
  • 27 - Epicurus 423
  • 28 - Early Stoicism 442
  • 29 - Scepticism 471
  • 30 - Greece and Rome 484
  • Part VI - Late Antiquity 499
  • 31 - Imperial Rome 501
  • 32 - Plotinus 532
  • 33 - Late Neoplatonism 556
  • 34 - Early Christian Thought 569
  • 35 - Augustine 588
  • Abbreviations General 625
  • Bibliography 639
  • Index 663
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