Ideas of Galen, by Theme

[Greek, 129 - 200, Born at Pergamum. Settled in Rome at the age of 40, and died there. Doctor and medical thinker, who left many writings.]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 5. Aims of Philosophy / a. Philosophy as worldly
Philosophy must start from clearly observed facts
     Full Idea: True philosophers concern themselves first and foremost to take clearly observed facts as their point of departure.
     From: Galen (The soul's dependence on the body [c.170], Kiv.11.817)
     A reaction: I love this one, especially the desire that the facts be 'clearly observed'. That, thank goodness, eliminates quantum mechanics. If you don't love history and the physical sciences, you are not a philosopher. Oh, and reliable gossip.
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 7. Status of Reason
Early empiricists said reason was just a useless concept introduced by philosophers
     Full Idea: The so-called Empiricists in Hellenistic times [as cited by Galen] denied the existence of reason, treating it as a useless theoretical postulate introduced by some philosophers
     From: report of Galen (An Outline of Empiricism [c.170], 87.4-9.28ff) by Michael Frede - Intro to 'Rationality in Greek Thought' p.3
     A reaction: I think 'be sensible' is understood by everyone, but 'use your reason' is far from obvious. The main role of reason seems to be as an identifier for human exceptionalism. Animals obviously make good judgements. Frede thinks the empiricists were right.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / c. Features of mind
The spirit in the soul wants freedom, power and honour
     Full Idea: The spirited part of the soul is desiderative of freedom, victory, power, authority, reputation, and honour.
     From: Galen (The soul's dependence on the body [c.170], Kiv.2.772)
     A reaction: This is the concept of 'thumos' [spirit], taken straight from Plato's tripartite account of the soul, in 'Republic'. Note that it includes a desire for freedom (in an age of slavery).
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / d. Location of mind
Galen showed by experiment that the brain controls the body
     Full Idea: Galen established by experiments in neural anatomy that the brain really is, contra the Stoics and Aristotelians, the body's control centre.
     From: report of Galen (On Hippocrates and Plato [c.170]) by R.J. Hankinson - Galen (damaged)
     A reaction: And about time too. This is one of the most significant events in the development of human understanding. No one has been able to go back to the old view, even Descartes, no matter how much they may long to do so.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 8. Brain
Stopping the heart doesn't terminate activity; pressing the brain does that
     Full Idea: Even when an animals heart was stopped [by hand] it continued its muted whimpers, …but when the brain was pressed the animal stopped making a noise and became unconscious.
     From: report of Galen (The soul's dependence on the body [c.170]) by Matthew Cobb - The Idea of the Brain 1
     A reaction: It's not that the ancients didn't do science. It's that ancient people paid no attention to what their scientists discovered.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 1. Faculties
We just use the word 'faculty' when we don't know the psychological cause
     Full Idea: So long as we are ignorant of the true essence of the cause which is operating, we call it a 'faculty'.
     From: Galen (On the Natural Faculties [c.170], I.iv), quoted by Dominik Perler - Intro to The Faculties: a History 2
     A reaction: This is probably the view of most modern neuroscientists. I want to defend the idea that we need the concept of a faculty in philosophy, even if the psychologists and neuroscientists say it is too vague for their purposes.
Philosophers think faculties are in substances, and invent a faculty for every activity
     Full Idea: Philosophers conceive of faculties as things which inhabit 'substances' much as we inhabit houses, not realising that causes of events are conceived in relational terms. We therefore attribute as many faculties to a substance as activities.
     From: Galen (The soul's dependence on the body [c.170], Kiv.2.769)
     A reaction: This seems to demolish speculative faculties, but they were revived during the Enlightenment. I am happy to talk of 'philosophical faculties' where they are presumed to originate a type of thought, without commitment to any neuroscience.
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
The brain contains memory and reason, and is the source of sensation and decision
     Full Idea: The brain is the principal organ of the psychical members. For within the brain is seated memory, reason and intellect, and from the brain is distributed the power, sensation and voluntary motion.
     From: Galen (The soul's dependence on the body [c.170]), quoted by Matthew Cobb - The Idea of the Brain 1
     A reaction: [not sure of ref] Interesting that he assigns the whole of mind to the brain, and not just some aspect of it. He had done experiments. Understanding the role of the brain was amazingly slow. Impeded by religion, I guess.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Rationality / a. Rationality
The rational part of the soul is the desire for truth, understanding and recollection
     Full Idea: That part of the soul which we call rational is desiderative: …it desires truth, knowledge, learning, understanding, and recollection - in short, all the good things.
     From: Galen (The soul's dependence on the body [c.170], Kiv.2.772)
     A reaction: Truth is no surprise, but recollection is. Note the separation of knowledge from understanding. This is a very good characterisation of rationality. For the Greeks it has a moral dimension, of wanting what is good.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / f. The Mean
Galen's medicine followed the mean; each illness was balanced by opposite treatment
     Full Idea: Galen ran medicine on the principle of the mean; afflictions must be treated by contraries; hot diseases deserve cold medicine and moist illnesses want drying agents. (Paracelsus rebelled, treating through similarity).
     From: report of Galen (On Medical Experience [c.169]) by Ian Hacking - The Emergence of Probability Ch.5
     A reaction: This must be inherited from Aristotle, with the aim of virtue for the body, as Aristotle wanted virtue for the psuché. In some areas Galen is probably right, that natural balance is the aim, as in bodily temperature control.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / a. Virtues
Each part of the soul has its virtue - pleasure for appetite, success for competition, and rectitude for reason
     Full Idea: We have by nature these three appropriate relationships, corresponding to each form of the soul's parts - to pleasure because of the appetitive part, to success because of the competitive part, and to rectitude because of the rational part.
     From: Galen (On Hippocrates and Plato [c.170], 5.5.8)
     A reaction: This is a nice combination of Plato's tripartite theory of soul (in 'Republic') and Aristotle's derivation of virtues from functions. Presumably, though, reason should master the other two, and there is nothing in Galen's idea to explain this.
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 3. Punishment / a. Right to punish
We execute irredeemable people, to protect ourselves, as a deterrent, and ending a bad life
     Full Idea: We kill the irredeemably wicked, for three reasons: that they may no longer harm us; as a deterrent to others like them; and because it is actually better from their own point of view to die, when their souls are so damaged they cannot be improved.
     From: Galen (The soul's dependence on the body [c.170], Kiv.11.816)
     A reaction: The third one sounds like a dubious rationalisation, given that the prisoner probably disagrees. Nowadays we are not so quick to judge someone as irredeemable. The first one works when they run wild, but not after their capture.