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Women’s nature (phusis) and diseases as objects of observation in the hippocratic gynecological texts : an epistemological study

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2013
Akşit, Gökçesu
This study concentrates on the disease and treatment cases of women in the Hippocratic texts, to identify and describe the Hippocratic medical style as one that, through its mode of practice, represents a significant departure in making the human body observable. As an antidote to a bias in the literature that has always made the male more visible, we chose to view Hippocrates’s novel way of making the woman visible since, producing a new entity for observation, this style of practice led to the emergence of a new profession of medicine, gynecology. In this way, the “white-armed” women of ancient times were brought into the realm of the visible. Examination of the case histories in the corpus revealed that the observational style was used in light of two principles, that of nature as an active force, generally for healing, and water as a function and humor; both the nature and water concepts uniting the analytical and the metaphorical in a holistic way. The nature inspiration enables an ecological view of Hippocratic practice in such a way that later categories described by Kuhn as incommensurable are seen to function in interrelation. The theoretical trajectory therefore, involves a short survey which starts with Popper and follows through Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend, and finally Crombie, with the latter’s concept of “styles of thinking” which accounts for how habits of thought inform specific practices like Hippocratic gynecology.