'Visible' and 'Invisible' as Categories of Thought in the Hippocratics ("On Regimen", "On Ancient Medicine", "On the Art")

Roberto Lo Presti


In this paper, I focus on the polarity between 'visibility' and 'invisibility' in the collection of medical treatises that has been transmitted under the name of the "Hippocratic Corpus", and more specifically in the treatises "On Regimen", "On Ancient Medicine", and "On the Art". In three sections, I address the semantic and conceptual polarity of the 'visible/invisible' in the light of, and as a key to, three major questions of an epistemological order: concerning, respectively, the formation of the human body from the embryo and thus the emergence of life, the definition of medicine's field of intervention and strategies of observation, and the relation between the physician's knowledge and the patient's acquaintance with his own body and perceptions. The aim is to cast light on the multi-sensorial foundations of the medical art as it was practiced, represented and defended by that group of practitioners and medical writers that call "Hippocratic".

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