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Trying to Understand Galen's view on Medicine

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Understanding Galen's view of medicine is very difficult for those of us brought up or taught in the modern Western concept of rational and scientific medicine.

Simplistically, his approach to medicine combined three distinct perspectives:

Galen's views are a combination of the scientific perspective (anatomical studies by dissection and experimentation), the quasi-scientific (the humoral theory) and the philosophic (the Platonic view of life involving three body systems and the division of the soul, along with the Healing cult of Asclepius).

This would be akin to a modern approach to medicine that included science (neurobiology and neuroanatomy, for example) mixed with quasi-science (Freudian concepts of ego, super-ego, and id) and philosophy (strains of Eastern mind-body intervention and religious supernatural healing).

He practiced medicine for about a half century and wrote 3-4 million words (350 treatises). His concept of medicine was always evolving and adapting.

To be continued....

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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Wouldn't this be somewhat (loosely) akin to modern practices such as homeopathy? (the 'new ager' version I mean. When they start talking about chakras and etc. :))

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Wouldn't this be somewhat (loosely) akin to modern practices such as homeopathy? (the 'new ager' version I mean. When they start talking about chakras and etc. laugh.gif)

Thank you for reviewing my post, Lost Warrior! Any help or insight in understanding Galen is appreciated.

Galen wrote that a good physician was also a philosopher.

The difficulty in understanding Galen's view of medicine is that he mixed science with philosophy. He firmly believed in Plato's tripartite soul (a concept that I only vaguely understand): reason, spirit, and appetite or desire.

He thought human health could also be divided into three body systems: the brain and nerves for sensation, the heart and arteries for life and energy, and the liver and veins for nutrition and growth.

He also believed in Hippocrates' humoral theory (the need for balance to maintain good health among the four humours: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile).

He felt that these three body systems had to be in balance with the four humours. Illness, therefore, represented any imbalance among these systems.

Because he was fixated on this philosophy of three body systems (to coincide with Plato's idea of the tripartite soul), he couldn't grasp the notion of blood circulating between the arteries and veins independent of the brain and nervous system. The understanding of circulation had to wait till Harvey in 1628.

I appreciate any help you can offer in my understanding this concept.

Thanks, again.

I will post further on this thread,

guy also known as gaius Edited by guy

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I understand these things from a philosophical point of view...though I don't necessarily agree with it.

 

I don't really understand it from a scientific point of view. So much of a gap between "now" and "then" for it to make sense to me from that standpoint.

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Galen had a strange concept of respiration. Galen believed the following:

 

Body's innate heat formed by blood.

 

Breathing does not bring a fuel to blood. (There was no understanding of oxygen, for example.)

 

Breathing fans, cools, and strengthens the innate heat.

 

Breathing dissolves the "smokiness" produced by the "combustion of the blood."

 

Galen did, however, correctly demonstrate cutting the nerves affecting the function of the diaphram and intercostal muscles involved in breathing.

 

Here's a good article on the subject:

 

http://www.erj.ersjournals.com/cgi/reprint/8/1/154.pdf

 

guy also known as gaius

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So...ancient people were spontaneously combusting all over the place? :D

 

:D Galen did not believe that blood circulated. He thought that it ebbed and flowed: Blood was consumed in the healthy state, but was stagnant in the disease state. This is why bloodletting was a favored therapy, according to Galen.

 

Galen, for example, thought that breast cancer was caused by a coagulum of black bile within the breast, a substance discharged from the body by menstruation. He explained this to be the reason for the greater frequency of breast cancer typically found in non-menstruating post-menopausal women and the therapy he recommended was ridding the body of black bile.

 

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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