History of Medicine


An Open Access Journal

Natural philosophy and principles of general pathology in the Galen system (as exemplified by the Ars Medica treatise). Part 1

DOI: 10.17720/2409-5834.v2.1.2015.09b
D.A. Balalykin, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor,
Chairman of the Department of the History of Medicine, National History and Culturology
I.M. Sechenov First Moscow Medical University, The Ministry of Health
of the Russian Federation, Moscow (Russian Federation)

In his treatise “Ars Medica”, Galen sets out the general principles of pathology and summarizes his views on the main challenges faced by the physician in daily practice. Continuing to develop and support the ideas of Hippocrates, who criticized the doctrine of “permanent illness”, Galen argued against the followers of this doctrine, consistently upholding the principle of teleology. Attempting to justify his viewpoint, he referred to the idea of homoeomeries as set out in his theoretical interpretation. With certain reservations the author of this article considers the opinions of Galen on homoeomeries as a proto-scientific model of the body’s microstructure. Galen’s far-sighted reasoning on concerning the microstructure of tissue is most clearly evidenced by his understanding of its pathological processes in the body. According to him, pathogenesis, which has several stages, can occur on the homoeomery level. In describing this process, Galen presumed that the normal state differed from pathology in how the body retained the ability to conduct its functions. In “Ars Medica”, Galen summarized his findings in the form of the main criteria that distinguish a state of health from a state of the disease.

This article is the first part of an ancient-Greek-language translation and medical-historical commentary of the full text of Galen’s “Ars Medica” treatise. The analysis of this essay indicates that in interpreting Galen’s natural-philosophical concepts and terms, the interdisciplinary nature of his approach must be considered, examining its contents in a broader general theoretical and philosophical context.

Keywords: history and philosophy of medicine, Galen, “Ars Medica”, pathology, homoeomeries

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Published in Vol. 2. №1, 2015


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