The Greeks were the first to develop rational systems of medicine almost entirely free of magical and religious elements and based upon natural causes. The importance of this revolutionary innovation for the subsequent history of medicine cannot be stressed enough. Drawing upon the latest material discoveries and scholarship, James Longrigg describes the origin and development of rational medicine in ancient Greece and examines its complex relationship with philosophy down to the third century BC.
The emancipation of medicine from superstition was the outcome of the same attitude of mind which inspired the Ionian Natural Philosophers. Just as these philosophers sought to explain in purely natural terms phenomena such as earthquakes, thunder and lightning, which had previously been regarded as manifestations of supernatural powers, so too did the medical authors of Hippocratic treatises examine in natural terms the problems of epilepsy, apoplexy, delusions and madness. Focusing on rational attitudes, procedures and modes of explanation, this new doctrine of medicine eschewed theories of arbitrary, supernatural interference. Greek rational medicine reached its climax in third century Alexandria, where medical researchers achieved levels of accuracy and sophistication in anatomy which, until the sixteenth century, remained unsurpassed within Western culture.
"Greek Rational Medicine" examines the important relationship between philosophy and medicine in ancient Greece and beyond, revealing its significance for contemporary Western practice and theory.