Ralph Rosen

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20072008 Forum on Origins

Ralph Rosen


Classical Studies

Ancient Greeks on the Origins of Medicine, Intelligent Design, and the ‘Nature of Humankind’

Ancient Greek theorizing about the origins of medicine began to distance itself from mythological paradigms and sought to explain health and disease in exclusively physical terms. Some Greek medical writers took a fundamentally pessimistic view of humankind’s “original state,” describing early humans as weak and unsuited for the life they found they had to live. Others, however, marveled at the complexity of human anatomy, and spoke with admiration of a divine “craftsman,” responsible for an original prototype of the human body, but incurring no responsibility for its frailties. Rosen will explore the ancient discourse about the origins of medicine and suggest that the specific needs of a developing scientific discipline gave rise to a number of idiosyncratic conceptions about human nature and human interaction with the environment.