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Taming experience: Giambattista Da Monte's commentary on the Hippocratic Epidemics I

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Since the eighteenth century, scholars and physicians have celebrated the Hippocratic Epidemics, especially books one and three, as a model for observational medical practices. Recent studies have argued that sixteenth-century evaluations of the case studies in Epidemics I and III helped fuel the emergence of a new empirical culture. In the earliest printed commentary on Epidemics I (1554), Giambattista Da Monte, a professor of medicine at Padua, emphasized theoretical rules about prognostics, causation, and the importance of philosophy. Da Monte recognized the epistemological importance of experience, yet he understood it to be subordinated to theory. Rather than viewing Epidemics I and its case studies as a catalogue of raw observations that could form the foundation for new theories, he argued that the descriptions of symptoms and seasonal conditions were designed as exercises for teaching how to conjecture about diagnosis and therapy using already discovered principles.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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