Plato's Rivalry with Medicine: A Struggle and Its Dissolution

ISBN : 9780199919802

Susan B. Levin
320 Pages
163 x 238 mm
Pub date
Sep 2014
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While scholars typically view Plato's engagement with medicine as uniform and largely positive, Susan B. Levin argues that from the Gorgias through the Laws, his handling of medicine unfolds in several key phases. Further, she shows that Plato views medicine as an important rival for authority on phusis (nature) and eudaimonia (flourishing). Levin's arguments rest on careful attention both to Plato and to the Hippocratic Corpus. Levin shows that an evident but unexpressed tension involving medicine's status emerges in the Gorgias and is explored in Plato's critiques of medicine in the Symposium and Republic. In the Laws, however, this rivalry and tension dissolve. Levin addresses the question of why Plato's rivalry with medicine is put to rest while those with rhetoric and poetry continue. On her account, developments in his views of human nature, with their resulting impact on his political thought, drive Plato's striking adjustments involving medicine in the Laws. Levin's investigation of Plato is timely: for the first time in the history of bioethics, the value of ancient philosophy is receiving notable attention. Most discussions focus on Aristotle's concept of phronesis (practical wisdom); here, Levin argues that Plato has much to offer bioethics as it works to address pressing concerns about the doctor-patient tie, medical professionalism, and medicine's relationship to society.


Chapter 1: The Gorgias' Innovative Lens on Human Existence
1. Introduction
2. Technai v. Empeiriai: The Gorgias' Account of What Is and Is Not Worth Doing
3. The Gorgias' Soul-Body Division
4. Goods Set Apart from the Good
5. Hedonism and Antithetical Ways of Life
6. Order as the Key to Virtue and the Good
7. The Gorgias on Punishment
8. Gorgias 517d-518a and the Dialogue's Final Hierarchy of Human Endeavors
9. The Gorgias' Preeminent Techne of Politics
Chapter 2: Medicine in the Gorgias: A Collision Course with Philosophy Is Set
1. Introduction
2. Medicine's Role as Aid and Support to the Gorgias' Castigation of Rhetoric
3. Taking Stock of the Gorgias' Parallels and Debts to Medical Writings
4. The Roots of What Will Become Plato's Head-On Rivalry with Medicine
4.1 Medicine on the Highest Good and the Big Three Epithumiai
4.2 Pain
4.3 Soul
4.4 Microcosmic Hubris
5. Looking Ahead
Chapter 3: Eryximachus' Tale: The Symposium's Challenge to Medicine's Preeminence
1. Introduction
2. Eryximachus as Emcee?
3. Macrocosmic Occupations: The Logos of Eryximachus and Its Hippocratic Backdrop
4. Eryximachus' Appropriation and Critique of Heraclitus and Anaximander
5. Desire, Self-Indulgence, and Self-Control: Eryximachus and Arete
6. The Field of Technai: Eryximachus' Loose Construction
7. Concluding Thoughts: Eryximachus' and Our Own
Chapter 4: Justice and the Good in Kallipolis: Medicine's Ejection from the Ranks of Technai
1. Introduction
2. The Hippocratic Backdrop
2.1 Treatments
2.2 Conditions
2.3 Non-Disease Impairments
3. The Republic's Account of Medical Practice
4. Philosophers, the Big Three, and the Soul-Body Tie
5. Infallible Philosophers and the Good
6. Medicine a Techne No More
7. The Republic's Hierarchy of Human Endeavors and Medicine's Distinctiveness
8. A Brief Look Ahead
Chapter 5: Approaching the Laws by Way of the Statesman
1. Introduction
2. Human Capacity in the Statesman and Republic Compared
3. The Statesman on Human Endeavors
4. Medicine in the Statesman and Its Sociopolitical Milieu
5. The Laws on Phusis and (In)Fallibility: The Laws and Republic Contrasted
6. The Touchstone of Magnesia's Quest for Unity
7. Maintaining Magnesia: The Nocturnal Council as Philosopher-Rulers or Closely Akin Thereto?
7.1 Revising the Law
7.2 Magistrates' Corruptibility
7.3 The Nocturnal Council's Fallibility as a Judge of Character
7.4 Magnesia's Own Cognitive Resources are Insufficient
7.5 Cognitive Adequacy and the Council
8. Conclusion
Chapter 6: Medicine in the Laws: A Rivalry Dissolved
1. Introduction
2. The Laws' Opposition to Rhetoricians/Sophists and Poets
3. Medicine in the Laws
4. Magnesia's Ordinary Citizens Front and Center
5. Non-Citizens' Enhanced Position in Magnesia
6. The Gorgias' Uncertainty Resolved
Chapter 7: Plato's Legacy to Contemporary Bioethics
1. Introduction
2. Entrenchment in Bioethics' Quest for Alternatives: Two Prominent Illustrations
3. Avoiding Scylla and Charybdis: Aristotle to the Rescue?
4. Bioethics and Plato Thus Far
5. Preconditions of True Doctor-Patient Collaboration: Grounding an Appeal to Plato
6. Bioethics Compared with the Laws on Human Fallibility
7. Parity and Paideia
8. Paideia and Medical School: Island or Way Station?
9. Paideia and (Im)moral Incentives
10. Transparency and Accountability: The Who and What of Knowing
11. Veatch and Brody on Lay People's Values-Contributions
12. Conclusion
General Index
Index Locorum

About the author: 

Susan B. Levin is Professor of Philosophy at Smith College. She has previously published The Ancient Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry Revisited: Plato and the Greek Literary Tradition (OUP, 2001) and numerous articles.

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