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Classical Studies
Classical Studies 2900
Beate Gundert

Classics Notes – Feb. 23/12 200 BC-200 AD was the period of Empiricists. - Empiricists call themselves this because they base their work on experience (empeiria). Peira means trial and error or experiment. They called into question the value of any hypothesis not founded on direct observation. Empiricists accepted only evident causes (external circumstances/factors) as valid and rejected hypothetical theories about hidden causes (internal factors). The Empiricists focused on symptomatology (if the same symptoms continually lead to the same outcome, they could conclude it is a disease entity), pharmacology (is highly based on experience), surgery, and commentaries on Hippocratic surgical writings. - There are different approaches to understand reality. People back then wondered if the universe is ordered by reason or if it comes together by chance, or if atoms are floating around in void. These ideas go back to pre-socratics. Some people thought it was best to take things as they are – these philosophers are called skeptics. In medicine there is a similar situation. Hippocratic ideas were based on speculation and analogy. In Hellenistic medicine, physicians could see what was happening in body and this led to theories about how the body works. In medicine people are faced with different theories. Physicians deduced treatment from causes. Up until now, in order to treat diseases physicians had to know the causes of symptoms. - Empiricists disagreed with this and thought that we could not really understand what’s happening in the body. Empiricists called people dogmatists if they believed in a different theory in which there are hidden causes. They believed that the idea of hidden causes is useless. They thought that we should only base our treatment on observation and experience of what worked in the past. Their treatment is based on three parts and is called the empirical tripod. 1. Autopsia – Is personal observation you do yourself or see for yourself. The physician’s expertise (experience, empeira) is based on trial and error experiments (peira) and subsequent repetition of successful treatments. Physicians would try certain medications for certain symptoms and if it worked, they would prescribe this treatment for the next person. It started out as a chance observation (tyche) or trial and error and then it became experience and became part of medical art (techne). 2. Historia – Is the recorded observation and experience of others. It is a collective memory of what had worked in the past as a data bank for future use. Physicians wrote down what they observed so that other physicians could see it. They were also interested in the surgical books from Hippocratic medicine because this was not based on theory. They used the accumulated experience of other physicians. 3. Inference from what has worked in similar cases – This is the transference of treatment of one type of disease to another, of what has worked on one part of the body to a similar part of the body, or the use of a similar remedy for the same ailment. They might encounter a disease that has never been seen before, or they may not have the medication for treating something, so they should use a treatment that they would use for a similar case. This is a form of analogy (would use treatment for a new disease that is analogous to a treatment for a known disease). (182) - This passage was written by Celsus (1 c.
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