A Madman’s Kind of Ignorance

Hippocrates of Cos, The Art 8

 “There are some who find fault with medicine because of doctors who are not willing to attempt cases completely overpowered by diseases, saying that while doctors will try to heal patients whose diseases would heal themselves, they do not touch cases for which there is a great need of help—and, if [medicine] were truly an art, it would be necessary to treat all diseases equally.

The people who say these things, if they are really criticizing doctors because they do not care about the people who say these kinds of things as if they were delirious, perhaps they might make a more pointed critique than the one they offer. For, if someone believes that a skill can do something it cannot do or a exhibit a character which it does not have by nature, he is ignorant with the kind of ignorance that is closer to madness than a lack of education. For it is possible for us to master some fields by a natural disposition and with the tools of the art and then to become practitioners of these fields, but it is not possible for others.”

VIII. Εἰσὶ δέ τινες οἳ καὶ διὰ τοὺς μὴ θέλοντας ἐγχειρεῖν τοῖσι κεκρατημένοις ὑπὸ τῶν νοσημάτων μέμφονται τὴν ἰητρικήν, λέγοντες ὡς ταῦτα μὲν καὶ αὐτὰ ὑφ᾿ ἑωυτῶν ἂν ἐξυγιάζοιτο ἃ ἐγχειρέουσιν ἰῆσθαι, ἃ δ᾿ ἐπικουρίης δεῖται μεγάλης οὐχ ἅπτονται, δεῖν δέ, εἴπερ ἦν ἡ τέχνη, πάνθ᾿ ὁμοίως ἰῆσθαι. οἱ μὲν οὖν ταῦτα λέγοντες, εἰ ἐμέμφοντο τοῖς ἰητροῖς, ὅτι αὐτῶν τοιαῦτα λεγόντων οὐκ ἐπιμέλονται ὡς παραφρονεύντων, εἰκότως ἂν ἐμεμφοντο μᾶλλον ἢ ἐκεῖνα μεμφόμενοι. εἰ γάρ τις ἢ τέχνην ἐς ἃ μὴ τέχνη, ἢ φύσιν ἐς ἃ μὴ φύσις πέφυκεν, ἀξιώσειε δύνασθαι, ἀγνοεῖ ἄγνοιαν ἁρμόζουσαν μανίῃ μᾶλλον ἢ ἀμαθίῃ. ὧν γὰρ ἔστιν ἡμῖν τοῖσί τε τῶν φυσίων τοῖσι τε τῶν τεχνέων ὀργάνοις ἐπικρατεῖν, τούτων ἔστιν ἡμῖν δημιουργοῖς εἶναι, ἄλλων δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν.

This has no relation to the last statement but I needed to share it to remember it. Also, anything like this sticks with me because (1) I grind my teeth and (2) my spouse is a dentist.

Hippocrates, Prognostica 3

“To grind the teeth during a fever—if it is not a lifelong habit—is sign of insanity and mortal danger. And if this is done while delirious, it is especially deadly.”

ὀδόντας δὲ πρίειν ἐν πυρετῷ, ὁκόσοισι μὴ σύνηθές ἐστιν ἀπὸ παίδων, μανικὸν καὶ θανατῶδες·6 ἢν δὲ καὶ παραφρονέων τοῦτο ποιῇ, ὀλέθριον κάρτα ἤδη γίνεται.

File:Medieval dentistry.jpg
Wikimedia commons

Leave a Reply