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Humoral Doctrine. “ Being Hippocratic but still feeling good about yourself ” [E mpedocles, ca.492 B.C.- ca.432 B.C., was the real culprit ]. What Is IT? .

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humoral doctrine

Humoral Doctrine

“Being Hippocratic but still feeling good about yourself”

[Empedocles, ca.492 B.C.- ca.432 B.C., was the real culprit]

what is it
What Is IT?

This “Doctrine” about the makeup of the Universe dominated Western thinking from Classical Greek & Roman times until the Enlightenment.

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water comprise the basic elements of virtually everything.

humoral matrix
Humoral Matrix
  • Hot Cold



medieval manuscript of the four humors
Medieval Manuscript of the Four Humors

The Four Humors were tied to four basic temperaments(above,clockwise): phlegmatic, sanguine melancholic and choleric.

health medical applications
Health-Medical Applications
  • Isonomia, imbalance, in the proportional relationship of the humors results in maladies suffered by human beings.
  • Restoration of proper proportions is the goal of medical diagnosis and treatment.
sources of imbalance
Sources of Imbalance
  • Diet: Foods (especially herbs) and drink
  • Location: Climate, topography, orientation of buildings (something like feng shui)
remedies for isonomia
Remedies for Isonomia
  • Implementing the principle of oppositions could “cure” humoral imbalance
  • Heat could be countered by cold; dryness by moisture, etc.
  • (by complementing excess humors with their opposites a kind of equilibrium would be achieved; or, one could think of it as one humor cancels out the other)
cases in point
Cases In Point
  • “If it was a fever --a hot, dry disease-- the cause was yellow bile. So, the doctor would try to increase its opposite, phlegm, by prescribing cold baths. If the opposite situation prevailed (as in a cold), where there were obvious symptoms of excess phlegm production, the regimen would be to bundle up in bed and drink wine. “
cases in point continued
Cases in Point (Continued
  • If this didn't work the next course would be with drugs, often hellebore, a potent poison that would cause vomiting and diarrhea, "signs" the imbalanced humor was eliminated.
considerations for dietary effectiveness
Considerations for Dietary Effectiveness
  • Occupation of the individual
  • Age of the individual [children: hot and moist; youths: hot and dry; adults: dry and cold; old people: moist (or dry) and cold—e.g., cold foods recommended for children]
  • Physique [thin people told to eat moist foods; fat people told to eat dry foods]
  • Seasonality [winter: foods could be hotter, stronger, drier, e.g., grain, meat, undiluted wine; summer: foods could be cold and moist, e.g., wholemeal bread, vegetables and water; intermediate seasons: intermediate foods]
dietary effectiveness continued
Dietary Effectiveness, continued
  • Gender of the individual [women, considered moist and cold, partly because of purging the heat from their bodies every month; men, considered dry and hot because they “use a more active regimen, so that they are well warmed and dried]
some dietary prescriptions and proscriptions
Some Dietary Prescriptions and Proscriptions
  • Old Men – Must not eat much of starches or cheese; hard-boiled eggs; snails; onions; beans; pig-meat; snakes; ospreys; flesh of venison, goats, or cattle. Suitable are fowls; birds that do not live in swamps, rivers, and pools; bread.
sociocultural implications
Sociocultural Implications
  • Justification for conquest and hierarchy (see next slide)
  • Impeded physiological research and advancement of medical science
  • Made possible the excellence of Arabic culture in medicine and other areas
  • Related to the preceding: Indirect component of Middle Eastern dominance in Science generally during Europe’s Dark Age
an old world export to the new in the columbian exchange
An Old World Export To The New In The “Columbian Exchange”
  • Pervasive idea of duality (male-female; night-day; up-down; East-West. . . )leant itself to the Humoral Doctrine
  • Doctrine itself is simplified by dropping out dry-moist opposition so it becomes:
  • The Hot-Cold Doctrine*
a note about hot and cold foods
*A Note About “Hot” and “Cold” Foods
  • Food and drink were thought to require greater or lesser amounts of “cooking” in the stomach, i.e., as part of the digestive process
  • Foods classified as “Hot” required less cooking than foods classified as “Cold” (cold foods, then, should be eaten earlier in the day since they take longer to “cook” than hot foods)
a further note
A Further Note
  • Foods were, therefore, classified as“Hot” and “Cold” without respect to either their temperature or spiciness, i.e., without reference to empirical characteristics
  • Caliente or picante, for example, had nothing to do with a food’s classification as “Hot”
patterns in hot cold food classification
Patterns in Hot/Cold Food Classification
  • Hot herbs are more than twice as common as cold herbs
  • Garden vegetables are overwhelmingly cold
  • Indigenous Mexican fruits tend to be hot while European fruits tend to be cold
what is its conceptual importance and impact
What Is Its Conceptual Importance and Impact?
  • A. It epitomizes Linear Logic
  • (Teleological Functionalism, or

Cause-Effect Relationship Statements)X Y

B. It exemplifies Reductionism

  • C. It represents Deterministic


  • D. It illustrates (by negative example) the importance of the Scientific

Method in data gathering and analysis

what did it do to us
What Did It Do To Us?

A. It trapped us into a “Which

  • Comes First, the Chicken or the

Egg” Mentality [If X causes Y, where

did X come from?]B. It reinforced over-simplification

  • of complex phenomena

C. It justified stereotyping and

D. It treated the Individual, Society,

and Culture as homologous and isomorphic, which they are not

why should we care
Why Should We Care?

A. Reductionism and Determinism are invariably oversimplified models of reality. Frequently they are also tautological, reflecting “Closed System” thinking

B. Explanation and argument of the Humoral Doctrine type trivializes the importance of empiricism, and the Comparative and Scientific Methods of inquiry

don t throw the baby out with the bath
Don’t Throw the Baby Out With The Bath
  • A. Is Teleological Functionalism totally incorrect and/or useless?
  • B. Is there something that, in general,

is more accurate/useful?

[A] No: If Cause-Effect statements meet the “Necessary and Sufficient” test, then they may be valid, and valuable

a the necessary and sufficient test
[A]. The “Necessary and Sufficient Test”
  • If two things stand in a true cause-effect relationship, then X is both necessary and sufficient for Y to exist.
  • For Example:
  • Does the existence of a combustion temperature cause fire? No. There must also be something to consume.
b is there something that in general is more accurate useful
[B]. Is there something That, In General, Is More Accurate/Useful?
  • Yes. The concept of Mutual Causality appears to be both more accurate and useful—it more realistically reflects events in our personal, social, cultural, and physical world.
what does mutual causality mean
What Does “Mutual Causality” Mean?
  • It means that X and Y in a relationship may alternately, or perhaps simultaneously, be a cause and an effect of one another.
  • X Y
  • This may also be illustrated by the helix (a.k.a. Movius Strip) that depicts DNA. In the next slide observe how the helix turns in on itself.