Explanation in the Medical Schools

R. J. Hankinson

in Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought

Published in print October 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246564
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597572 | DOI:
Explanation in the Medical Schools

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In this chapter, Hankinson discusses the major Hellenistic Medical theories and figures, from the Alexandrian doctors Herophilus and Erasistratus in the third century bc to the Empiricist, Rationalist, and Methodist schools of the early Imperial period. Hankinson argues that the practical basis of medical science broadened and deepened the debate about the nature of causal explanation. The Empiricists were sceptics in their attitude to causes, thinking that observation and report of evident conditions and their cures was sufficient for medical science, and thus eschewing causal theory. Rationalist doctors attacked the inadequate methodology of the Empiricists, and they try to explain why the antecedent cause should bring on such and such an effect, while emphasizing the need to decide rationally the proper use of induction, and the relevancy of similarities. The Methodists treat as irrelevant antecedent causes or factors, and they recognized just two pathological conditions—relaxation and constriction; the doctor's concern is to determine by direct observation in which state is the body.

Keywords: antecedent causes; direct observation; Empiricists; Erasistratus; Herophilus; induction; Methodists; methodology; Rationalists

Chapter.  13050 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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