Theories of Health and Disease
Whatever benefits came to philosophy by way of Greek medicine, Greek medicine also received from the early Pre-Socratic philosophers the impetus to emancipate the healing arts from magic and superstition. In this chapter it is my aim to explore some of the main facets of two theories of health and disease that most strongly influenced Greek physicians, namely, the humoral theory associated with Hippocrates and the eclectic theory of the best constitution associated with Galen. The Pre-Socratic influence toward seeking the universal causes of phenomena in the natural order governed by lawlike, non-magical forces (knowable to man through rational reflection and observation) was an influence unquestionably felt by the Hippocratic authors. However, I shall not stop to argue this point owing both to the long digression it would entail and to the fact that scholars like Sigerist, Jaeger, and Edelstein, among others, have admirably secured this position and stand virtually unopposed. I shall be concentrating instead on the results of the general Pre-Socratic quest for natural explanations; particular Pre-Socratic philosophers will receive only the briefest mention, and some familiarity with their theories is taken for granted. Also, to promote continuity in the account I am about to give, Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle will receive additional exposure so that their theories of health and disease may at least be glimpsed in relation to pertinent medical developments.
KeywordsNatural Function Ontological Concept Humoral Theory Animal Spirit Greek Physician
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