Excerpt from Boethius on Consolation
Lady Philosophy and the Application of Ancient Medical Theory
According to Michael Frede, there was a strong connection throughout Antiquity between philosophy and medicine, a relationship supported by early Hippocratic writings advising that philosophy be carried into medicine and medicine into philosophy. Not only did ancient medical authors, from the time of the Hippocratic writers onwards, rely upon philosophers “for their views on physiology, but also for their conception of their art and their moral precepts for the doctor.”1) Frede points out that ancient philosophers showed considerable interest in medical questions, most notably after medicine came to be considered an intellectually respectable discipline in the fifth century B.C. This concern was practical, he argues, because in small communities one often had to care for oneself and, in the absence of regulation, doctors tended to be itinerant and unaccountable for their practices. Consequently, much of the responsibility for treatment was carried out by the patient, with the assistance of a doctor, whose role was to offer explanations, advice, and help. Frede emphasizes that “the choice of treatment, hence the primary responsibility, was the patient’s,”2) especially if the patient was an educated man who would have regarded medicine as one of the liberal arts and therefore worthy of his attention and study.