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Humoral Theory and Human

Nature and Gender 22/01/2008 13:49:00

A concise definition of the word humoralism using nutton as a basis.

She looks at the oldest form of humoralism and how it gets transmitted
through the world.
what does corpus mean? Hippocratic corpus?
• just a body. A collection of the body of work.
humoralism is primarily related to health and disease as an imbalance of the
humors. The medical practitioner has to balance the humors.
• the strong interactions between the organic and holistic view.
Psychosematic: the mental and body connection. Direct tie between
physical and emotional health.
• highly individualistic and universal.
o the humors can be configured in each person in a discreet
o the proper balance for one person may be quite different for
one person to another.
o things that can change your balance of the humors
 diet, physical activity, climate, and even seasons can
change the humors and make people sick.
o while the physician has to do a case history for each patient
the physician knows the remedies because there are only four
humors and they know how to prescribe for them.
A system of medicine that considers illness in the form of some disturbance
in the natural balance of the humors. It is at one and the same time, highly
individualistic and universal.
the natural balance is always shifting by diet, climate and others. That
balance can be restored by allopathic means.
• either using the same method or the opposite. The allopathic mean
is by using the opposite of the disease.
o ie, if running a fever, use something cold to help it
its earliest manifestation was around 5th and 6th century BC.
What is a humor or what are the humors?
• A literal meaning of a fluid or juice.
• she talks about the Hippocratic and Hellenic sources
• the notion of balance or equilibrium is at the very foundation a
western philosophy and medicine. Even before Socrates and plato.
There was a group called pre-socrates around 5th and 6th century BC
and they saw the world as a flux of various parts.
o They wanted to explain how things were always coming in to
be and passing away.
o there are four constituanties of the humors. In a broader
context what are the substances the world is made of.
Hippocratic corpus
• It is here where you can find the description of health and disease
being the balance or imbalance of the humors
• she also explains how these various texts show the humors
• in two of these, two body fluids, phlegm and bile were identified as
causes for disease. When they manifest themselves it is because of
some imbalance.
• It describes the humors and the disease can be either physical or
• by contrast the bile and phlegm which are treated mostly
negatively; blood is treated ambiguously. Blood, however, is the
most important for life, and can cause disease.
when and where the idea of the four humors appear?
• it is far from clear. The idea of the four humors come from medical
practice and philosophers.
• medical practice finds a symmetry with philosophy
• on the nature of man, the fourth humor is identified as black vile.
why does it succeed and why does it last for so long?
• it lasted for about 2300 years.
• the four humors are related to the four seasons. People become
more sedentary during winter. During summer they go out more.
• it could be combined with Plato that combines the four elements
with the four humors.
• Galen combines the Hippocratic corpus with the Hellenic ideals.
• The hippocratism survives in the Latin west is viewed primarily
through galen’s eyes.
o His view becomes the dominant medical philosophy in
western world
o Relates the four humors to the four elements
o the attractiveness of galen's theory is the ability for it to
adapt easily. If you had a certain kind of body type your
personality would be different from other people and people
would perceive you in a certain way.
• Astrology in the middle ages and the renaissance is a crucial
o The movement of the planets
o the change of stars and all celestial bodies could have an
effect on the humors.
o during this time an Italian wrote a 600 page book detailing
how to balance the humors. (Ficino) the three books of life
o if somebody contends that you are absolutely in control by the
stars then you have the problem regarding free will.
o The moon has an influence on the tides
Non naturals
• working out, having sex, cleanliness and others allow people to
become healthy and stay healthy
celestial, terrestrial, super-celestial (the macrocosms)
• the elements exist in the terrestrial world
o they manifest in the term of their quality
Galen’s natural things on the body
• The mixtures
o The presence of the elements in the humor
o The pure elements are mixed
• The organs
o The liver, gull bladder, heart
• Bones
• Spirits
o Spirits animate the matter of the body
• The faculties
o Things that do work in the body

• 6 non natural or neutrals

o allopathic
o psychosomatic

o within 100 words or less the definition of humoralism

o in a 100 words or less the history of the origin and transmition

of humoralism

It had begun in the 5th and 6th century BC and by

the second century AD, it had become dominant
throughout the Roman Empire. The Arab
conquests of the seventh century, and the
subsequent translation of Galenic and Hippocratic
texts into Arabic in the ninth century, ensured its
primacy in Muslim lands. In the middle ages, the
introduction of translated Arabic medical texts
into the Latin west, from the eleventh century
onwards, confirmed the importance of
humoralism. In the learned medicine as taught at
the newly founded universities, it formed the
basis for all medical understanding, and
diagnosis and treatment were structured
according to the pattern of the so-called six non-
o must be as precise as possible

22/01/2008 13:49:00