Medicine Between Natural Philosophy and Physician's Practice: A Debate Around 400 BC
“Sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic types”: in this classification of the four temperaments survives a doctrine that influenced Western medicine into the nineteenth century, the doctrine of the four homours, blood (haima, lat. sanguis), phlegm (phlegma), yellow bile (chole) and black bile (melaina chole), the ratio of which was thought to cause health and sickness. This chapter tries to reconstruct the debate that resulted in this doctrine. This was a medical discussion of methods that occurred at the turn of the fourth century BC concerning the epistemologicalfoundations of medicine, namely its relation to the natural sciences. The battle lines in this debate were drawn up differently than we might expect today: on one side were sober practitioners who were equally averse to religious fantasies and the construction of scientific theories, and on the other a philosophical poet, who had many traits of a world-redeeming guru, and yet at the same time laid the basic foundations for the physical theories of the ancient world.
KeywordsLiving Thing Essential Form Ancient Medicine Black Bile Yellow Bile
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