The Symptom and the Subject: The Emergence of the Physical Body in Ancient Greece
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The Symptom and the Subject takes an in-depth look at how the physical body first emerged in the West as both an object of knowledge and a mysterious part of the self. Beginning with Homer, moving through classical-era medical treatises, and closing with studies of early ethical philosophy and Euripidean tragedy, this book rewrites the traditional story of the rise of body-soul dualism in ancient Greece. Brooke Holmes demonstrates that as the body (sôma) became a subject of physical inquiry, it decisively changed ancient Greek ideas about the meaning of suffering, the soul, and human nature.
By undertaking a new examination of biological and medical evidence from the sixth through fourth centuries BCE, Holmes argues that it was in large part through changing interpretations of symptoms that people began to perceive the physical body with the senses and the mind. Once attributed primarily to social agents like gods and daemons, symptoms began to be explained by physicians in terms of the physical substances hidden inside the person. Imagining a daemonic space inside the person but largely below the threshold of feeling, these physicians helped to radically transform what it meant for human beings to be vulnerable, and ushered in a new ethics centered on the responsibility of taking care of the self.
The Symptom and the Subject highlights with fresh importance how classical Greek discoveries made possible new and deeply influential ways of thinking about the human subject.
“see” it, whether in symptoms such as varicose veins or nosebleeds, or through more complex calculations—for example, if a fever lasts more than twenty days in a patient showing signs of recovery, an apostasis is expected.19 If apostasis is going to be beneficial, the peccant material needs to be cooked or “concocted,” a condition particularly evident in the stuffs that exit the orifices—hence, the heightened attention to effluvia in the prognostic calculus.20 Evidence of coction thus signifies a
individual treatises, see appendix 3 in Jouanna 1999. The prehistory of “Hippocrates” is a very old problem. The doxographers do not seem to have evidence for earlier medicine see, e.g., Plin. NH 29.1–2; Str. 14.2.19 for the later stories created to account for this lacuna. The author of the pseudo-Galenic Definitiones medicae appears to have been familiar with pre-Hippocratic texts but notes that they are few (Kühn 19.347). For references to earlier medical writings in works from the corpus, see
Martin-Primavesi Marx M-W Obbink OSAP PCG PCPS Pendrick Pfeiffer PGM PhR PMG QUCC R A B B R E V I AT I O N S Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences Journal of Hellenic Studies F. Jouan and H. Van Looy, eds. and trans. 1998–2003. Euripide, Fragments. CUF t. 8.1–4. Paris. R. Kannicht, ed. 2004. Tragicorum Graecorum fragmenta. Vol. 5: Euripides. 2 vols. Göttingen. R. Kannicht and B. Snell, eds. 1981. Tragicorum Graecorum fragmenta. Vol. 2. Göttingen. C. G. Kühn, ed. and trans.
to stand firm, that failure, while motivated by an onslaught of daemonic fear, publicly testifies to his lack of aretē. The idea of publicly staged aretē requires some modification of the binary felt-seen model. Up to now, I have focused on how daemonic presence is felt 118 The idea of inspiration is developed at length by Plato in the Ion; see also Cra. 396d1–397a2; Phdr. 265b2–c3; Democr. (DK68) B18. It is hard to know whether the model is original to him. For analyses of the archaic and
Melissus, suffering pain and anguish is a counterfactual condition. If sensory evidence were allowed, however, to be in pain would be a sign of membership in a community of composite objects gaining and losing parts and eventually falling to pieces.94 In fact, it is precisely such a sign that is marshaled in the Hippocratic text On the Nature of a Human Being, whose author turns out to have a strategic familiarity with Melissus’s philosophy. The treatise begins with 92 Guthrie 1962–69, 2:113.