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Substance, Element, Quality, Mixture:
Galen’s Physics and His Hippocratic Inheritance

Substance, élément, qualité, mélange : la physique de Galien et son héritage hippocratique
Sostanza, elemento, qualità, miscela: la fisica di Galeno e la sua eredità ippocratica
Robert James Hankinson

Résumés

Galien insiste sur le fait qu’Hippocrate, dans Nature de l’Homme, adopte et défend une physique dans laquelle non seulement les quatre qualités fondamentales – le chaud, le froid, le sec et l’humide – mais aussi les quatre éléments de base sont considérés comme fondamentaux pour la constitution de toutes les réalités matérielles. Il le fait parce qu’il estime qu’une telle physique est la bonne. Le but principal de cet article est d’examiner pourquoi Galien pense que non seulement les qualités fondamentales, et la matière dans laquelle elles se concrétisent, sont nécessaires conceptuellement pour toute physique adéquate, mais aussi pourquoi il est aussi nécessaire de se référer aux éléments réels, conçus comme ces corps matériels qui ont le plus complètement mis en évidence les qualités causales de base. J’examine les sources des opinions de Galien sur l’interaction matérielle telles qu’elles découlent de leurs ancêtres aristotéliciens (et, dans une moindre mesure, stoïciens) et conclus, en fin de compte, que la prétention de Galien selon laquelle une analyse conceptuelle précise exige la postulation d'éléments réels, conçus comme les corps qui instancient au maximum les quatre qualités fondamentales, même si aucun élément pur de ce genre n’est réellement distillé, est en fait injustifiée.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 I should like to thank Stéphane Marchand for having invited me, and his colleagues in the groupe Ko (...)
  • 2 Galen comments on this text at On Hippocrates’ ‘Nature of Man’ (HNH) XV 53–54 K = 29,24 – 30,16 Mew (...)
  • 3 Elements according to Hippocrates (Hipp.Elem.) I 476–77 K = 122,4–14 De Lacy [CMG V 1,2, Berlin, 19 (...)

Hippocrates’ own words will make it clear to you that in the treatise Nature of Man he often refers to the elements (stoicheia) by the names of their qualities (poiotêtes), signifying by ‘hot’ neither (a) the quality itself, nor (b) the body that is called hot homonymously by virtue of the predominance (kat’ epikratêsin) of that quality, but (c) the body which possesses extreme heat, and signifying by ‘cold’ the body in which there is extreme cold, by ‘dry’ the body in which there is extreme dryness, and by ‘wet’ the body in which there is wetness in the extreme.1 For when he says ‘Furthermore, it is necessary that when a man’s body dies, each thing returns to its own nature, the wet to the wet, the dry to the dry, the hot to the hot, and the cold to the cold’ [Nat.Hom. 3.3, 172,5–8 Jouanna (CMG V I 1,3, Berlin, 20022)],2 he is not referring to the qualities hot, cold, wet and dry alone and by themselves, but to the substances (ousiai) in which the qualities reside. [Text 1]3

  • 4 See R. J. Hankinson, ‘Philosophy of nature,’ in R. J. Hankinson (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Galen(...)

1This passage comes from the summary of the ‘first discourse’ of Galen’s Elements according to Hippocrates, where he deals with what he firmly believes to be Hippocrates’ general theory of physics and his debt to Hippocrates, which I have treated of elsewhere.4 What I do want to do is to explore a question suggested in passing by Peter Singer, when he remarked to me in Berlin last October that he could not see why Galen was so committed to the existence of the elements as such. At first, I responded rather glibly, rather in the manner that Galen himself does, insisting on the need for the causally efficacious powers to be physically instantiated. But I gradually came to see that Peter had a serious, subtle, and indeed perhaps unanswerable point. It is that point that I want to develop in this contribution.

  • 5 For this typically dismissive phrase and others like it, see the passages cited by De Lacy: 1996, 1 (...)

2Galen goes on to draw attention to something he says has escaped those who “think that Hippocrates fought shy of asserting that these [sc. earth, water, air and fire] were the elements of all bodies that come to be and are destroyed” (478 = 124,4–7). These people, “who call themselves ‘Hippocratics,’”5 fail to see that Hippocrates refers quite generally to the underlying elements of everything; and Galen cites in support of his view Hippocrates’ repeated use of the word ‘all.’ But while it is clearly true that the author of Nature of Man gestures towards a general physics of the composition of all material things, it is a further question whether he should be thought of as endorsing, even implicitly, any kind of element-theory. Galen goes on to say, of the soi-disant Hippocratics, that:

  • 6 Nat.Hom. 3.3 = 172,5–8 Jouanna (CMG I 1,3), quoted in Text 1 above, and 3.4 = 172,8–12 J: “Such is (...)
  • 7 These are the ‘uniform parts’, the basic tissues that compose the human body, and are what are refe (...)
  • 8 Hipp.Elem. I 478–79 K = 124,12–24 De Lacy; cf. Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato [PHP] V 674–77, 6 (...)

They also think that by ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ and ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ he is talking of something else, and not of the common elements of all things (koina pantôn stoicheia). But I think it has been clearly shown from the passages I have already cited6 that he does not wish to make their qualities the elements, and not least from the following passage: “For if the heat does not stand in a proportionate and equal relation to the cold, and nor does the dry to the wet, but one, the stronger, far outweighs the other, the weaker, then generation will not occur” [Nat.Hom. 3.1, 170,11–14 J]—he does not think that the generation of animals takes place from the qualities alone, which cannot even exist apart from bodies, but from the bodies themselves, obviously the bodies which have received the extremes of the qualities: and these will be the common elements of all things; but the bodies called ‘hot,’ and ‘cold,’ and ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ by way of the predominance (epikrateiai) are different and specific in each case.7 [Text 2]8

3It is the passage in bold which matters. It is one thing to insist that generation cannot occur simply as a result of the qualities, since the qualities need physical vehicles for their instantiation; it is quite another to insist on the physical reality of the elements as such, conceived as the physical instantiations of those qualities in their extreme form. It is the basic goal of this paper to show why a commitment to one has no tendency to entail, or even to suggest, a corresponding commitment to the other.

4Galen affirms in numerous passages that the properly-competent doctor requires an understanding not merely of the particular construction of the (human) body, but of material composition in general—that is, they must have a grasp of general physics:

  • 9 The Best Doctor is also a Philosopher I 60 K = Galeni Scripta Minora [SM] 2, 6,14–18 Müller (Leipzi (...)

Physics . . . teaches the very nature of the body, both that which derives from the primary elements, which are mixed among one another as a whole, but also that which derives from the secondary [substances], which are called ‘uniform’ (homoiomerê), and a third in addition to these, namely that from the organic parts. [Text 3]9

5This is also, so he says, the view of Hippocrates:

  • 10 Ibid. I 54 K = SM 2, 1,11–13 Müller = 284,8 – 285,2 Boudon-Millot.

Furthermore, he [sc. Hippocrates] thought that one should have a precise understanding of the nature of the body, saying that this was the source [or principle: archê] of the whole theory of medicine. [Text 4]10

6But it is one thing to insist on the need for a properly-physical understanding—quite another to insinuate that this must take the form of subscribing to an element theory. Compare the following two texts:

  • 11 Galen, Therapeutic Method [MM] X 462–63 K).

The doctrine that all bodies . . . are composed of hot, cold, wet and dry is common to virtually all the most reputable doctors (“Diocles, Mnesitheus, Dieuches and Athenaeus”) as well as to the best philosophers (“Chrysippus and Aristotle”) . . . but I call them ‘Elements according to Hippocrates’ because I think one should credit the one who first propounded and demonstrated them. [Text 5]11

And:

  • 12 HNH XV 103 K = 54,5–9 Mewaldt; cf. PHP V 676 K = 502,14–25 De Lacy.

Those things common to all things, and which are simple and genuinely primary, are properly called ‘elements’. And Hippocrates named these things after the qualities, hot and cold, wet and dry, and not things intermediate between their extremes [sc. those under Text 1 (b) above], but the extremes themselves, namely fire and earth, water and air. [Text 6]12

  • 13 Even this claim requires a good deal of qualification, as Galen himself was perfectly well aware; t (...)

7In Text 6, Galen repeats a claim he has already made numerous times in HNH, and which is equally ubiquitous in Hipp.Elem., that when he uses the terms ‘the hot’, ‘the cold’, etc., Hippocrates is referring to the elements. By contrast, all that Text 5 explicitly asserts is the agreement of the reputable majority that the four qualities are in some important sense fundamental;13 although here too Galen asserts the elements really should be called ‘Hippocrates’ elements’: which is of course the title of his treatise, at the outset of which he offers a differentiation of his own (cf. Text 2 above):

  • 14 Hipp.Elem. I 413–14 K = 56,3–18 De Lacy.

An element is the smallest part [or ‘least part’: ἐλάχιστον μόριον] of that of which it is an element; but what appears smallest to perception and what is actually smallest are not the same, since many things escape perception because of their smallness; so clearly sense-perception should not be the criterion of what is naturally and truly the element of each thing . . . For this reason Hippocrates too, when inquiring into the elements of man’s nature, disdains those parts that are simplest and first relative to the senses, and seeks those that are so in truth and in nature. And indeed for medical treatment these latter are no less useful than the perceptible least parts, as has been shown in other writings. A person might agree that these perceptible (least) parts appear to be elements but not agree that they are elements. It is not what appears to be the simplest and first part but what is so by nature that is the element. [Text 7]14

8Some people—including the self-styled Hippocratics of Text 2—want to consider the uniform parts of the body as basic; but this is a serious mistake, and one which Hippocrates himself did not make. Galen, in fact, relies implicitly on the distinctions first made explicitly by Aristotle in Parts of Animals:

  • 15 Aristotle, Parts of Animals 2.1, 646a12–24, trans. after Lennox.

Since there are three compositions (sustaseis), one might place first the composition of what some people call the elements, e.g., earth, air, water and fire. And yet, perhaps it is better to speak of composition from the powers (dunameis) . . . wet, dry, hot and cold are the matter (hulê) of the composite bodies, while the other differences, e.g., heaviness and lightness, density and rarity, roughness and smoothness, and the other bodily affections of this sort, follow from these. Second is the composition of the nature of the uniform parts within animals—e.g., of bone, flesh and the other things of this sort—out of the primary things. Third and last in the series is the composition of the nature of the non-uniform parts, e.g., of face, hand, and similar parts. [Text 8]15

  • 16 See e.g., Generation and Corruption [GC] 2.1, 329a24–b1: “there is a matter of the perceptible bodi (...)

9Aristotle’s use of the term ‘matter’ to refer to the qualities is interesting, and serves to emphasize the variability and fluidity of the ‘technical’ terminology in such contexts. Galen himself would not endorse it, preferring to assimilate the qualities to form, as opposed to the material substrate in which they are realized (a position which is also Aristotelian, at least in inspiration):16

  • 17 Galen makes this assimilation, which is typical of his generally syncretistic procedure (as exempli (...)
  • 18 The Soul’s Dependence on the Body [QAM] IV 773 K = SM 2, 36,19 – 37,5 Müller.

Each of the organs has its particular substance (ousia), but we should not immediately demand an accurate definition of these substances, but first recall the nature of the common substance of all bodies . . . [which] is comprised of two principles (archai), matter (hulê) and form (eidos). Matter is conceptually lacking in quality, but contains within it a mixture of four qualities, heat, cold, dryness and wetness; and these qualities give rise to bronze, iron gold, and also to flesh, sinew, fat, gristle and all such entities, which Plato calls ‘first-born’ (prôtogenes)17 and Aristotle ‘uniform.’ [Text 9]18

  • 19 Aristotle turns it into a technical term, and for him it has a number of different senses, summariz (...)
  • 20 Which are themselves, in Galen’s view, elaborations of the four humors, which themselves are elabor (...)

10Substance (ousia) is another term of fluid reference in Galen (and indeed elsewhere);19 here he is using it to signify the basic composition of the stuffs in question, the Aristotelian compound of matter and form. But elsewhere it refers more specifically to the material substrate of the stuff (whatever it might be) under consideration; and sometimes (as it apparently does in Text 1 above) simply to the material thing itself, again whatever it might be (in that case the elements). We will return to the distinction between elements and the principles, the archai, assimilated to the Aristotelian conceptual components of matter and form in a moment. But it is worthwhile first to add a couple more passages that refer to the distinction between the elements properly so called (‘naturally and truly’: Text 7 above), and the ‘perceptible elements,’ and which further assimilate the latter to the Aristotelian uniform parts:20

  • 21 Hipp. Elem. I 465–66 = 110,17–21 De Lacy; the whole of the succeeding passage, 466–70 = 110,21 – 11 (...)

Given that the element is some smallest and simplest part (ἐλάχιστον τι καὶ ἁπλούστατόν ἐστι μόριον: cf. Text 7 above), it would be, in relation to sense perception, bone, cartilage, ligament, nail, hair, fat, flesh, nerve, marrow, fibres too, and membranes; and in a word all the uniform parts would be elements of human bodies. [Text 10]21

And:

  • 22 Natural Faculties [Nat.Fac.] II 12 = SM 3, 109,13–21 Helmreich, 1893.

So if you’re looking for the primary and elemental alterative powers, then they are moisture, dryness, cold and heat. But if <you’re looking for> those which are generated out of their mixture, they will be as many of them in each animal as it has perceptible elements. All the uniform parts of the body are called perceptible elements. And one should discover these not by some method, but by personal observation by way of dissections. [Text 11]22

And finally:

  • 23 This term is not in fact Aristotelian, although of course ‘uniform’ is. On Galen’s ‘perceptible ele (...)
  • 24 HNH XV 7 K = 6, 11–15 Mewaldt.

Our present discourse is concerned not with naming and meanings, but with the actual facts about the parts which are minimal, whether in respect of quantity or quality, from which are generated the first composition of generated bodies, which Aristotle and I call ‘perceptible elements’23 and ‘uniform parts.’ [Text 12]24

  • 25 Originally by Plato, according to Simplicius (in Phys. 7), who expressly draws the metaphor from th (...)

11Let us then return to the other distinction which Galen wants to insist upon, namely that between elements and principles. After briefly explaining why the term ‘element (stoicheion)’ came to be transferred “by those who came after the ancients”25 from its original sense of ‘letter of the alphabet’ to its technical physical meaning, that of a minimal substantially indivisible component part of some material compound (5–6 = 5,15–28), Galen writes:

  • 26 HNH XV 6–7 K = 5,28 – 6,8 Mewaldt.

So those who say that the four elements of generable and destructible bodies are air, fire, earth and water, do so in the same way, since none of these can be split further into more forms (eidê), which is why they posit them as being the basic principles (archai) of natural inquiry. For although the primary notion of ‘smallest’ in regard to bodies is that in respect of quantity, there is a distinct subsidiary one in respect of quality, as was shown in the case of the elements of speech. Indeed the natural philosophers disagreed with one another, some supposing that the elements of generable and destructible bodies are parts which are minimal [ἐλάχιστον] in respect of size, others that they are those that are minimal [ἐλάχιστον] in respect of quality. [Text 13]26

  • 27 This too is fundamentally Aristotelian; compare On the Heavens [DC] 3.3, 302a10–27, esp. 11–18: “th (...)

12Just as a syllable is decomposable into its component letters, each of which is the smallest component part in terms of form (but not necessarily in quantity, since vowel sounds, for example, can be dragged out as long as you like) so too certain philosophers have supposed that physical bodies break down ultimately into formally-homogeneous component parts (their elements). They disagree with other theorists (paradigmatically the atomists and their corpuscularean heirs) in making these ‘minimal’ in substantial composition only (there is no smallest part of fire as such, since this physics is continuous). The point is that, according to them, once you have got down to the basic components, the elements, they are elements precisely because they are not capable of further decomposition into yet more basic stuffs. This is the sense in which I described them as ‘substantially indivisible.’27 For all that, they are still conceptually distinguishable into matter and form. But nothing is ever (formally speaking) purely matter, or (for that matter) purely form.

13Galen’s distinction between elements and principles is owed, in part at least, once again to Aristotle. At Metaph. 5.1 (1013a17) he notes that “all causes are archai,” while 5.2 (1013a24–30) distinguishes the material and formal causes (one the other hand, see 5.1, 1013a20–22: “hence nature (phusis) is an archê, and so is the element, and thought, and choice, and ousia and that for the sake of which”). But at least equally relevant is the distinction as it is made by the Stoics:

  • 28 Diogenes Laertius 7.134 = SVF 2 300, 299 = 44B LS.

They think there are two archai, that which acts (to poioun) and that which is acted upon (to paschon); what is acted upon is unqualified substance (apoios ousia), i.e., matter (hulê); what acts is the reason (logos) in it, i.e., god: for this is eternal, and constructs each thing through the whole of it [sc. the matter]. They say that principles and elements (stoicheia) differ, since the former are ungenerated and indestructible, while the elements are destroyed in the conflagration. Moreover, the principles are bodies, but without form, while the others [sc. the elements] are formed. [Text 14]28

14For the Stoics, then, matter and form are both themselves bodies; while qualities and powers are also bodies (as opposed to modifications of bodies, or things predicable of bodies). Furthermore, the elements are associated directly with the active and the passive, the formal and the material, and do not (as they clearly do for Galen, and largely do for Aristotle) form distinct taxonomical categories, prior to, and orthogonal to, the elemental bodies as such:

  • 29 Nemesius 164,15–18 = SVF 2 418 = 47D LS.

The Stoics say that some of the elements are active, and some passive: air and fire are active, earth and water passive. [Text 15]29

15Moreover, the active elements, fire and air, are for them directly associated, and uniquely so, with the hot and the cold, the active qualities, while water and earth are respectively uniquely wet and dry, the passive qualities (DL 7.137 = SVF 2 580 = 47B LS). This contrasts in more ways than one with the Aristotelian scheme, largely adopted by Galen, in which each element is associated with (but not made equivalent to) a pair of qualities, one of which is dominant: thus fire is primarily hot but also dry, air primarily wet but also hot, water primarily cold but also wet, and earth primarily dry but also cold (cf. GC 2.3, 330a30 – 331b6). Moreover, Galen insists, this time in un-Aristotelian fashion, that all four of the qualities are fundamentally active. Finally, here is another long passage from Galen on elements and principles:

  • 30 Galen is here referring to the claim of the author of Nature of Man that his various monistic oppon (...)
  • 31 Hupokeimenon: another Aristotelian technical term: cf. Phys. 1.6, 189a27–b16; Metaph. 7.3, 1028b33  (...)
  • 32 Air is conceived of by Galen (Hipp.Elem. I.469–70 K = 114,6 – 116,5 De Lacy), following Aristotle ((...)
  • 33 HNH XV 29–31 K = 17,22 – 18,15 Mewaldt.

Rather it seems that he [sc. Melissus]30 thought that there was some common substance, which underlies the four elements and is ungenerated and indestructible, what later people called ‘matter’, even though he was unable to make this clear in an articulated manner. . . . But . . . this is not the only thing which is the principle of bodies in generation and decay, as Melissus supposed, but in addition to it there are the four qualities, the extreme forms of cold, dryness, heat and moisture. However these are not yet elements of the nature of man (or anything else), but rather its principles. This was confused already by the ancients, who did not manage to distinguish between principle and element. . . . None the less, these two things are clearly distinct from each other, the one being the least part of the whole, the other that into which this least part itself can be divided conceptually. For one cannot split fire itself into two other bodies and show it to be a mixture of them, just as one cannot with earth or water or air. But it is possible to conceive of the substance of the changing thing as one thing, and its change as another, since the body which changes is not the same as the change which occurs in it. For what changes is the substrate,31 while the change in it comes about as a result of the replacement of qualities: so when the extreme of heat has come to be in it fire is produced, as too is air when it receives the extreme of moisture.32 And in the same manner, earth comes to be when this substrate, which is without any of the qualities as far as its own nature is concerned, receives into itself dryness without heat, and so does water when it receives cold without dryness. [Text 16]33

  • 34 All he probably means is that his monist opponents, far from actually disagreeing, really say nothi (...)

16However improbable this may be as an interpretation of ‘the theory of Melissus’ (and of the Hippocratic author’s view of that ‘theory’),34 the distinction between principle and element, at least in Galen’s mind, is now clear enough. The important thing about elements, as opposed to principles, is that they are physically isolatable, even if they may never be fully and purely isolated. By contrast, form needs something to be realised in; and this is true even if form is to be conceptualized not simply as a general type, but more concretely in terms of the basic causal qualities, namely hot, cold, wet and dry. You don’t get wetness or heat separately from things which are wet or hot. For Galen, in opposition to the Stoics, the qualities are not bodies as such, although they are bodily: they are ways bodies can be, properties of bodies.

17But for all that, as far as the physical composition and causal efficacy of bodies is concerned, everything is reducible one way or another to mixtures of the four qualities, “the primary and elemental alterative powers” of Text 11 above. And there is a fundamental reason for this: these qualities are the only ones which are such as to be capable of transmitting themselves from a body which possesses them in actuality to one which does not (but which is capable of receiving them) purely by contact. A hot body will warm a cool one adjacent to it simply by contact (indeed perhaps even by mere proximity: Text 17 below); and the same goes, Galen asserts, for cold as well, and equally, although less readily, for moisture and dryness. A necessary precondition of the transmissibility of these causal powers is the capacity of bodies, considered as material substances (in the sense already explored: see especially Text 2 and 9; and compare the Stoic alternative of 14), to undergo genuine qualitative alteration, a real internal and change of property within the substance, under the impact of the causal powers (compare the view of Aristotle, GC 2.1, 329a24–b1: n. 8 above). At the end of his ‘first discourse’ in Hipp.Elem., Galen summarizes:

  • 35 This is a reference to the Hippocratic author’s claim that “if man were one he would never feel pai (...)
  • 36 Galen assimilates the accounts of Anaxagoras and Empedocles to those of the atomists since they too (...)
  • 37 Hipp.Elem. I 483–84 K = 128,23 – 132,1 De Lacy.

Since it is the nature of substance to be altered, let us now see which of the qualities are capable of doing this. Hippocrates… used hot and cold and dry and wet for every alteration, deriving from observation the fact that nearby bodies are such as to undergo mutual changes by heating and cooling and drying and moistening; and having earlier shown that the whole substance is altered,35 he knew that . . . the visible alteration of bodies is not by separation and combination, as Epicurus and Democritus believed, and as Anaxagoras and Empedocles36 also believed in a different way. . . . Therefore, our substance is neither one in kind, nor unaffected, and if in fact it is affected, it will be affected when it is heated and cooled and dried and moistened; for no one of the other qualities is able to alter through and through (holon di’ holou) the body which it is close to. It does not happen that if heavy is close to light or light to heavy the light will become heavy of the heavy light, nor if smooth is close to rough, dense to rarefied, thick to thin, nothing of that kind can later through and through the body which is close to it. [text 17]37

  • 38 Galen’s account of the derivative properties is indebted to that of Aristotle in Meteorology 4.12 ( (...)

18And the same goes for other properties softness and viscosity, hardness and friability, which are associated with wet and dry respectively.38

  • 39 In this regard, compare On Mixtures I 518 K = 6,15 – 7,1 Helmreich [Galeni de Temperamentis, Leipzi (...)

19This insistence on the reality of through-and-through alteration, change of quality, as well as on the reciprocal nature of such interactions,39 is central to Galen’s understanding not just of material constitution itself, but also of casual interaction. This, fundamentally, is how power is transmitted from one thing to another. The following text sums matters up as they relate to mixture:

  • 40 Nat.Fac. II 5 K = SM 3, 103,25 – 104,15 Helmreich.

I have demonstrated elsewhere [in Elements according to Hippocrates] that Hippocrates already understood this even before Aristotle. For he, prior to any other doctor or philosopher of whom we know, undertook to demonstrate that there are in total four qualities which act upon one another, as a result of which everything which is subject to generation and destruction is generated and destroyed. Moreover it was Hippocrates before anyone else who realized that these were wholly mixed with one another through and through; and one can find in him the beginnings at least of the demonstrations which Aristotle was later the first to undertake in his writings. But I do not think it incumbent upon me in this discourse to go further into the question of whether one should think that not only the qualities, but the substances too are completely intermixed, as Zeno of Citium later asserted. [Text 18]40

20Galen is characteristically cautious here—if he doesn’t need to come down one way or the other, then often he will quite reasonably refuse to do so. But he clearly thinks that the Stoic view is unnecessary extravagant:

  • 41 This is a reference to a dispute concerning the nature of mixture between Stoics and Peripatetics; (...)
  • 42 Hipp.Elem. I 489–90 K = 136,15 – 138,5 De Lacy.

Moreover, it is not necessary for doctors to understand in what way things that are mixed are mixed through and through; whether they are of qualities only, as Aristotle supposed, or of bodily substances that pass through one another; this is why Hippocrates said nothing about these things, but was happy with the complete mixture of the elements. . . . None of the things Asclepiades says . . . against those who mix substances entirely throughout each other will touch those who say that they are mixed only as regards their qualities. So for safety’s sake (dia goun to asphales), if for no other reason, let us prefer and assert the doctrine that in the mixing of wine with water,41 as it might be, and in the breaking down of each of them into their smallest parts, it happens that they both act and are acted upon the one by the other, and that they share their qualities with each other the more readily the smaller the bits they have been broken down into. [Text 19]42

  • 43 But see the texts collected in LS 53; esp. 53A–B, SVF 2 988; for Stoic mixture, see LS 48, esp. 48A (...)

21Asclepiades’ objections to the Stoic theory presumably took the form of questioning the coherence of the Stoic idea that distinct bodies could completely interpenetrate one another, and yet still retain their individuality. This was indeed a central Stoic commitment: in their physics, the active elements, air and fire, and their dynamic compound pneuma, which they identify with intelligence and even god, quite literally wholly interpenetrate the material substrate of water and earth, giving it first coherence, and then in greater concentrations, first life, then sensation, and finally intelligence. That story need not detain us;43 but the Stoics were materialists and insisted that only bodies could affect and be affected. Asclepiades probably argued that, if bodies were allowed to completely interpenetrate, then the features in virtue of which they could interact and transmit their dynamic power, namely their hardness and resistivity in addition to their mass, would no longer be available to be active. Galen’s insistence on genuine alteration by way of the causal powers manages entirely to sidestep this, as Text 19 asserts. For all that, Galen’s theory is still entirely a materialist one. These powers are of bodies, and can only be exemplified in bodies.

22And this, of course, is why he insists on the reality, and the physicality, and indeed the physical separability, of the elements. But did he really need to? I turn now finally to the main subject of this paper.

  • 44 As indeed it still is; I defend Galen’s interpretation in Hankinson, 2014 (op. cit., n. 3).

23It might seem as though Galen has argued his case fairly effectively. The causal powers are real, and they are necessary and irreducible; but they are not free-standing. They need to be instantiated, and they need to be instantiated in bodies. Thus, conceptually, we can think in terms of reduction to matter, the vehicle for the properties, and the properties that are carried in them. But what we really have actually existing in the ontology are those bodies so endowed with powers. Now, even though Hippocrates does not make great play with the elements by name, as Galen quite happily admits, he does talk at length of the qualities; and by so doing, according to Galen (see Text 1), he frequently means to refer neither simply to the quality, not to any body which happens to be hotter rather than colder, but to the maximally hot body, or in other words, to the element: fire. To make out this case, Galen needs to reject the generally favoured interpretation44 of Hippocrates’ target at the beginning of Nature of Man, namely that he rejects all element theory, in favour of the view that his target is only various forms of elemental monism:

  • 45 For this famous compound drug, see MM X.281, 352–53, 882–83 K; The Powers of Simple Drugs XII.328 K (...)
  • 46 Hipp.Elem. I 451–52 K = 96,1–16 De Lacy.

So it seems that both Aristotle and Hippocrates have constructed their account in the same way, but that the commentators have not understood them. . . . For it is horribly illogical to refuse to admit them [sc. the elements] simply because none of them is seen in the body in its pure form. In the same way, one might refuse to allow that the tetrapharmakos45 is composed of wax, resin, tar, and fat, on the grounds that none of them is found in it whole and complete. Indeed, why even speak of these things which are so mixed through-and-through (di’ holôn allêlois krathentôn), when even the dry drugs compounded from cadmia, antinomy and smelted copper, if the simple ingredients are finely-powdered, no longer retain any of them in their pure form? No part, not even the smallest, can be found in which you will see any one of the ingredients just mentioned unmixed and unblended with some other. [Text 20]46

24Hippocrates’ theory is assimilated to Aristotle’s; and the implied objection, that if element theory is true, you should be able to discern the elements as such in the human body, is rejected as absurd by comparison with the condition of a compound drug whose original components are known and evident, although indiscernible as such in the compound form. The parallel passage of HNH makes the same point:

  • 47 HNH XV 17-18 K = 11,22 – 12,2 Mewaldt.

One might wrongly think it incumbent upon those who suppose that our bodies are generated from a mixture of fire and earth, water and air, either to show that water or fire or earth or air exist separated within us, or, if unable to do so, to admit they have been refuted. This is like thinking that, in the case of the power of the ‘tetrapharmakos’ you must either show it to be pure wax, or pitch, or fat, or resin, or, if you are unable to show this, that you must concede that it is not composed of these things. But in saying that these things are mixed, one makes it clear that no one of them exists in its pure state. [Text 21]47

25This all seems reasonable enough. Certainly the mere fact (if it is one) that one cannot now extract the ingredients from a mixture doesn’t show that they never did exist separately, or that they aren’t still now there in some sense. I can’t now extract whole eggs, sifted flour, and granulated sugar from the cake; but they went into it separately, and albeit mixed, fortunately, they’re still there. In the same way, the elements are never observable in pure, unadulterated form even in the cosmos as a whole; and any piece of earth always contains bits of the other elements (Hipp.Elem. I 453–54 K = 96,21 – 98,15 De Lacy). And as Text 19 points out, even in the case of mixtures of finely-ground powders, the individual constituents will not be discernible, and their powers mingled, although they will still be individually distinct, even if sub-perceptibly so.

26All that is no doubt true, at least as regards the ordinary ingredients of things. In the case of the uniform, perceptible parts of the body, it will certainly justify thinking of their composition in terms of the elaboration of initially distinct and various forms of nutriment. My flesh is no doubt largely elaborated from bread, cheese and wine, even if it is no longer actually made of them. Moreover, one may well agree with Galen that when the author of Nature of Man talks of the hot, the cold, the dry and the wet, he is implicitly talking of the substances which basically manifest these properties (cf. Texts 1 and 2, and nn. 2, 5, above), rather than simply of the properties themselves. But why cannot he be talking of bodies that happen to exhibit them, perhaps particularly strongly (kat’ epikratêsin: Text 1 above)? Let us now turn briefly to a relatively well-known passage from our text, in which Galen records his interrogation of one of his teachers, a follower of the pneumatist Athenaeus of Attaleia, as to what the latter meant precisely:

  • 48 Hipp.Elem. I 457 K = 102,3–7 De Lacy. The whole chapter, from 457–73 = 102,1 – 118,15, is instructi (...)

By positing the hot and the cold and the dry and the wet as the elements of man, but at the same time saying that the elements are evident and do not require demonstration, sometimes calling them qualities and powers, on occasion granting that they are bodies, but then being afraid to allow that they are water, air, fire and earth. [Text 22]48

27The general purpose of the passage is to resolve what he takes to be an egregious ambiguity lurking behind Athenaeus’s language (“since to name the elements as hot, cold, wet and dry, but to be afraid to call them fire and water and air and earth, is nothing other than insensitivity to ambiguity”: 460 = 104,17–19); “and I shall prove from the actual facts of the matter that it is impossible to make any doctrine in any way precise without the use of logical theory” (460 = 104,21–23). In what follows, I reproduce the elements of the mini- Socratic dialogue that Galen presents (with himself, of course, in the heroic role of mini-Socrates):

Q1: “To what is Athenaeus applying the terms ‘hot,’ ‘cold,’ ‘wet,’ ‘dry’? To the qualities themselves [Text 1 (a) above], or to the bodies which exhibit them [i.e., either 1 (b) or (c)]?” (I 461 = 106,1–12 De Lacy)

A1: “Not just the quality, but also the body.” (I 461–62 = 106,12–14 De Lacy)

Q2: “So is only a body which is extremely hot [i.e., Text 1 (c)] an element, or is any hot body [1 (b)] an element [and so on, with the other qualities]?” (I 462 = 106,14–17 De Lacy)

A2: “Why does it matter?” (I 462 = 106,17–18 De Lacy)

Q3: “Because it matters whether the elements are numerically unlimited or not; and they will be unlimited unless only the extremes are elements.” (I 462 = 106,19 – 108,1 De Lacy)

A3: “OK, four then.” (I 462 = 108,1 De Lacy)

Q4: “So the extremes [Text 1 (c)] are the elements?” (I 462 = 108,1–2 De Lacy)

A4: “All right, if you insist.” (I 463 = 108,4 De Lacy)

Q5: “So what is the ‘extremely hot (akrôs thermon)’ element?” (I 463 = 108,4–5 De Lacy)

A5: “Any body in which the hot predominates (epikratêsêi).” (I 463 = 108,6–8 De Lacy; i.e., the interlocutor can’t tell the difference between options Text 1 (b) and (c))

Q6: “So why not make barley gruel or lentil soup the hot element?” (I 463 = 108,8–13 De Lacy: NB: “the element must be simple and unmixed, not compounded and mixed”: 108,12–13)

A6: “OK, not hot soup then.” (I 463 = 108,13–14 De Lacy: cf. the distinction Galen makes in Mixtures between innate and acquired heat: I 646–54, 666–67 K = 86,1 – 90,27, 98,18 – 99,5 Helmreich)

So:

We arrive willy-nilly at the elements, the extremes (I 463–64 = 108,14–19 De Lacy)

28Galen makes fun of his teacher, as clever (and irritating) students will. It surely is absurd to think that various soups (obviously not gazpacho or vichyssoise) may in fact be the supremely hot element. Equally, it may be true that:

  • 49 Hipp.Elem. I 467 K = 112,5–11 De Lacy.

So if one were to assert that what is hot or cold or dry or wet by dominance (kat’ epikratêsin) is an element, bone and cartilage and nerve and everything else of that sort will also be elements of human bodies. But Athenaeus does not say this: he says that the constituents of these (ta toutôn sunthetika) are really the elements of these. It is clear that he goes beyond sense-perception, and advances by reasoning to things that are primary and truly simple, things that can no longer be said to take on this or that quality by virtue of dominance. [Text 23]49

29But this only means that the qualities need to be conceptualized in some sort of maximal manner, not that there be any maximal expression of them in bodies. Different types of body, even varieties of hot soup, will then differentially express, and to different degrees, the qualities; and there may even be ‘paradigm’ cases of them (‘ordinary’ earth, etc.)—but only because these contingently happen to be, e.g., the coldest and driest (and most compact, etc.), of physically-discoverable material composites. Galen is perhaps right to insist that this process of analysis requires ‘logical theory’, at least insofar as it requires extrapolating from, and going beyond, what is immediately discoverable in experience. But it does not (or not yet) require the postulation of actual elements, even as conceptual maxima.

30Galen argues that if anyone is content to go no further than the agreed-upon perceptible component parts, even though they accept that they are composite, and not to try to isolate any genuinely simple ones, then they will be convicted of talking “egregious and pointless nonsense” (468 = 112,17–21);

  • 50 Hipp.Elem. I 468 K = 112,24 – 114,4 De Lacy.

But if you are looking for an element that is simple in nature, it must be unmixed and unblended, and at the extreme in quality. So you come once again to fire and air and water and earth; for only in these will you find the qualities unmixed and unblended, the extreme of heat and dryness in fire, of cold and dryness in earth, and in each of the other two according to their particular natures. [Text 24]50

31But why should we need to look for such an element? Galen returns to the idea that it is simply perverse to claim that there is something which exhibits the extreme of wetness, and yet to refuse to allow it be water:

  • 51 Hipp.Elem. I 468 K = 114,6–10 De Lacy.

But to grant that the element must be wet in the extreme and at the same time to say that you think that it is something other than water is utterly stupid, unless perhaps you were to say that only the qualities themselves are elements, and not the bodies which have received them; so that not the water but the wetness will become the element, and not the fire but the extreme heat. [Text 25]51

32At this point, it is worth remembering that, according to Galen’s own developed (Aristotelian) theory which assigns to each element pairs of qualities of which one is dominant, water is not in fact ‘wet in the extreme,’ or dominantly wet: counter-intuitively, air is. There is nothing particularly egregious about this—it is an ubiquitous feature of the development of any theoretical but empirically-based science that it will tend gradually to unmoor itself from the original empirical content of the language from which it derives its evolving technical terminology (consider the semantic history of ‘wave’ and ‘particle’ in the context of contemporary high-energy physics; or indeed that of ‘element’). But at the very least this should counsel caution about supposing that any such process of the naming and determination of what are now theoretical terms should be susceptible of any sort of straightforward, common-sense analysis.

33To pursue that would take us beyond the remit of this study. But in any case: why should Galen’s hypothetical opponent of Text 25 not simply treat the qualities as elements?

  • 52 Hipp.Elem. I 469–70 K = 114,10–13 De Lacy.

But in this case, (i) this man, who could not stomach going even as far as fire and air and water and earth since they were beyond the scope of medicine, will in fact be going beyond even them in his argument; and (ii) secondly he will be shown to be manifestly ignorant of the difference between an element and a principle. [Text 26]52

34But (i) is purely ad hominem; and (ii) begs the question. Why should we distinguish between elements and principles? Or alternatively, why suppose that such a distinction actually answers to differences of fact in the world? If we insist, on Galenic (indeed Aristotelian) semantic grounds, that an element had better be a body, and one which exhibits its characteristic qualities to the utmost, then perhaps we should simply say that there are no elements. The crucial question is: what, if anything, will we have lost by so doing?

35The question becomes particularly acute within the framework of a continuous physics of total qualitative intermixture, in which, that is, there is no quantitatively minimal part of anything. In such a physics, pure stuffs will only ever be theoretical constructs, and ones which may well now seem to be of dubious utility. It is worth emphasizing that the same is not the case with contemporary classical physical chemistry of the elements of the periodic table. It may be difficult to isolate and assay pure gold, for instance. But once you get down to the atomic level, gold, the element with atomic number 79, is what you’ve got. It is not an abstraction or an idealization.

*

36I conclude with two further texts from Galen which seek to justify his position, but which to my mind fall short of doing so:

  • 53 Hipp.Elem. I 469–70 K = 114,13–23 De Lacy.

That extreme heat is simpler than fire, and that fire is produced when this heat has entered into matter, has been accepted by all the philosophers Athenaeus wants to follow. And indeed it has also been agreed that the first principles of the generation of fire are the matter which underlies all the elements and is without qualities, and the extreme heat which enters into it, and also that the matter exists throughout all eternity, being ungenerated and undestroyed, and that what comes and goes in it is quality, and that the element must be homogeneous with that of which it is an element, since a principle differs from an element in this, namely that principles are not necessarily homogeneous with those things of which they are the principles, while elements are wholly homogeneous. [Text 27]53

37It is the last claim, once again, that is problematic: why do we need elements, the wholly homogeneous components, in the scheme at all, even as theoretical constituents?

  • 54 Hipp.Elem. I 474–75 K = 120,7–10 De Lacy.

But since we cannot find even one quality apart from substance (ousia), we are compelled to take qualities with the substances and administer them to the bodies that need them; when we need an extreme quality, we take the element itself, fire or water or earth or air. [Text 28]54

38The point is one that he makes elsewhere, in connection with pharmacology. Even if all qualities are ultimately reducible to mixtures of the fundamental four, and even if it is the latter which are fundamentally causal, different conditions will demand their application to different degrees and in different concentrations (Galen is fully conscious of the distinction between quantity and intensity in this context: cf. Mixtures I 668–76, 99,23–104,19 Helmreich). And sometimes, if we need to apply serious heat, it might be a good idea to apply actual flame. But again—this need not be thought of as an element in the technical sense, but rather simply the most intensely hot thing we happen to come across regularly.

39In spite of what Galen says, then, there is no need in such a physics to postulate actually existing, separable elements as so defined—substances which exhibit in their purest and most unadulterated form the fundamental causal qualities in terms of which they are defined. And so his insistence that, when he speaks of the hot, the cold, the dry and the wet, and in so doing is clearly referring to hot, cold, etc. substances, the author of Nature of Man does not need to be referring to theoretical entities which exhibit the qualities to their maximal extent. His general refusal to talk of earth and air, fire and water, may be more than simply an expression of reticence, or of his characteristic brevity.

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Notes

1 I should like to thank Stéphane Marchand for having invited me, and his colleagues in the groupe Koinôs, in particular Pascal Luccioni and Gweltaz Guyomarc’h, for their warm welcome and engaging questions, which helped me to get my inchoate ideas into slightly better order.

2 Galen comments on this text at On Hippocrates’ ‘Nature of Man’ (HNH) XV 53–54 K = 29,24 – 30,16 Mewaldt (CMG V 9,1, Berlin, 1914), but refers to Hipp.Elem. for detailed exposition. He remarks, however, that Hippocrates cannot mean, absurdly, that our tissues (nerve, vein, etc.) return to their cosmic counterparts: “consequently it is not the clearly visible hot, cold, dry and wet parts of the human body which are the elements of the nature of man, but those which compose and produce them; and these are water and fire, air and earth”. I am preparing a translation with notes of this text, which will appear in Philip van der Eijk (ed.), Galen: Works on Human Nature (Cambridge, CUP, forthcoming). In what follows, ‘CMG’ refers to texts published in the Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, Berlin, Akademie Verl., ‘K’ to the edition of Galen of C. G. Kühn, Leipzig, 1819–1833 (20 vols in 22; repr. Hildesheim, Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1965).

3 Elements according to Hippocrates (Hipp.Elem.) I 476–77 K = 122,4–14 De Lacy [CMG V 1,2, Berlin, 1996]; trans. here and elsewhere after De Lacy).

4 See R. J. Hankinson, ‘Philosophy of nature,’ in R. J. Hankinson (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Galen (Cambridge, CUP, 2008; and ‘Galen on Hippocratic Physics,’ in L. Dean-Jones and R. Rosen (eds.), Ancient Concepts of the Hippocratic, Leiden, Brill, 2014.

5 For this typically dismissive phrase and others like it, see the passages cited by De Lacy: 1996, 195–96.

6 Nat.Hom. 3.3 = 172,5–8 Jouanna (CMG I 1,3), quoted in Text 1 above, and 3.4 = 172,8–12 J: “Such is the nature of animals, and of all other things as well. All things come to be in a similar way, and all things end in a similar way. For their nature is composed of all these things that have been mentioned, and each thing ends up, in accordance with the aforementioned nature, into the same as that from which it was composed; and so it departs there too.” Galen comments on this passage at HNH XV 55–58 K = 30,20 – 32,10 Mewaldt; and at Hipp.Elem. I 477–78 K = 124,1–11 De Lacy (immediately before Text 2), he remarks that Hippocrates underlines the cosmic generality of his account here by his repeated use of the word ‘all,’ a fact which escapes the self-styled Hippocratics who think he is only talking of the uniform parts.

7 These are the ‘uniform parts’, the basic tissues that compose the human body, and are what are referred to under (b) in Text 1 above; see further Text 3, 6, 7 below.

8 Hipp.Elem. I 478–79 K = 124,12–24 De Lacy; cf. Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato [PHP] V 674–77, 681–83 = 500,26 – 504,2, 506,25 – 508,13 De Lacy [CMG V 4,1,2, Berlin, 1978]).

9 The Best Doctor is also a Philosopher I 60 K = Galeni Scripta Minora [SM] 2, 6,14–18 Müller (Leipzig, Teubner, 1891 = 290,10–15 Boudon-Millot [V. Boudon-Millot, Galien, I, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2007]).

10 Ibid. I 54 K = SM 2, 1,11–13 Müller = 284,8 – 285,2 Boudon-Millot.

11 Galen, Therapeutic Method [MM] X 462–63 K).

12 HNH XV 103 K = 54,5–9 Mewaldt; cf. PHP V 676 K = 502,14–25 De Lacy.

13 Even this claim requires a good deal of qualification, as Galen himself was perfectly well aware; the physics of the Stoics makes the wet and the dry purely passive, and identifies them directly with the bodies water and earth, neither of which claims Galen could have subscribed to; see further Text 14, 15 below.

14 Hipp.Elem. I 413–14 K = 56,3–18 De Lacy.

15 Aristotle, Parts of Animals 2.1, 646a12–24, trans. after Lennox.

16 See e.g., Generation and Corruption [GC] 2.1, 329a24–b1: “there is a matter of the perceptible bodies, but this is not separable but is always together with a contrariety. . . . Still, since this is the way in which the primary bodies [sc. the elements] are from the matter, we must give an account of these too, treating as a principle that really is primary the matter which, though inseparable, does underlie the contraries (for neither is the hot the matter for the cold, nor the latter for the hot, but the substrate (hupokeimenon) is matter for them both). So what is perceptible body in potentiality is primary as a principle, and secondly the contrarieties (I mean e.g., heat and cold), and only thirdly fire and water and the like. For these change into one another and it is not as Empedocles and the others say, for then there would be no alteration; but the contraries do not change. But none the less even so we must discuss what and how many of them are principles of body”.

17 Galen makes this assimilation, which is typical of his generally syncretistic procedure (as exemplified by texts like Text 5 above) elsewhere: HNH XV 8 K = 6,19 Mewaldt; he is clearly referring to Statesman 288e, 289a; but Plato is not there making a point about uniform bodies in this sense at all.

18 The Soul’s Dependence on the Body [QAM] IV 773 K = SM 2, 36,19 – 37,5 Müller.

19 Aristotle turns it into a technical term, and for him it has a number of different senses, summarized in Metaph. 5.8, 1017b10–26, the first of which is “the simple bodies e.g., earth, fire, water and the like”; but this is assimilated to the basic sense of Categories 5, 2a11–4b19, that of the ultimate subject of predication; but the ousia of something is also its form or cause, like the soul (1017b15–26), or its definition (1017b22–23). Aristotle summarizes, somewhat opaquely: “it happens then that ousia has two senses; the ultimate subject, which cannot be predicated of anything else, and the particular, separable thing, and the shape and form of each thing is of this kind” (1017b23–26). For the Stoics, ousia tends to pick out the material constitution of things, and is identified with the passive, receptive elements of water and earth: SVF 2 826, 398, 378, 395 = 28F-I LS; cf. SVF 2 300, 299, 311 = SVF 1 88 = 44B-D LS; on the Stoic view of the elements as such, and their assimilation with active and passive powers, see SVF 2 413, 580, 418 = 47A–B, D LS; Text 14, 15 below. ‘LS’ refers to A. A. Long and D. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, Cambridge, CUP, 1987 (2 vols.).

20 Which are themselves, in Galen’s view, elaborations of the four humors, which themselves are elaborations of nutriment: HNH XV 51–52 K = 28,8–24 Mewaldt.

21 Hipp. Elem. I 465–66 = 110,17–21 De Lacy; the whole of the succeeding passage, 466–70 = 110,21 – 116,5 is relevant here.

22 Natural Faculties [Nat.Fac.] II 12 = SM 3, 109,13–21 Helmreich, 1893.

23 This term is not in fact Aristotelian, although of course ‘uniform’ is. On Galen’s ‘perceptible elements,’ see D. Leith, ‘Elements and uniform parts in early Alexandrian medicine,’ Phronesis 60, 2015, 462–91, esp. 467–68.

24 HNH XV 7 K = 6, 11–15 Mewaldt.

25 Originally by Plato, according to Simplicius (in Phys. 7), who expressly draws the metaphor from the letters of the alphabet: Statesman 278d; Timaeus 48b. By “the ancients,” Galen means those Presocratics who wrote texts entitled On Nature: he cites Empedocles, Parmenides, Melissus, Alcmaeon, and Heraclitus (5 = 5,10–12).

26 HNH XV 6–7 K = 5,28 – 6,8 Mewaldt.

27 This too is fundamentally Aristotelian; compare On the Heavens [DC] 3.3, 302a10–27, esp. 11–18: “the primary constituents [of bodies] are the elements; so we must investigate of what sort they are, and why, and then how many of them there are and of what quality. This will become clear once we have established the nature of an element. Let then a bodily element be that into which other bodies may be divided, and which is contained within them either potentially or actually . . . but which cannot itself be divided into things which differ in form.”

28 Diogenes Laertius 7.134 = SVF 2 300, 299 = 44B LS.

29 Nemesius 164,15–18 = SVF 2 418 = 47D LS.

30 Galen is here referring to the claim of the author of Nature of Man that his various monistic opponents, in their mutual and irresoluble antagonism, “as a result of their lack of understanding, knock themselves down with the terminology of their theses, and put the theory of Melissus back on its feet” (Nat.Hom. 1.4, 166,10–11 J). Galen interprets this as meaning that Melissus in fact adopts a theory in which there is a single, qualityless substrate; cf. Hipp.Elem. I 443–48 = 88,4 – 92,14 De Lacy; esp. 447–48 = 90,20 – 92,12.

31 Hupokeimenon: another Aristotelian technical term: cf. Phys. 1.6, 189a27–b16; Metaph. 7.3, 1028b33 – 109a33, defined as what persists through a change, in this case (although not of course in all) the basic underlying stuff, or prime matter; see GC 2.1, 329a24–31, n. 8 above. The Stoics used it to refer both to the basic material substrate and to the persisting individual entity that is the bearer of changeable properties: 28A, E; 44D LS.

32 Air is conceived of by Galen (Hipp.Elem. I.469–70 K = 114,6 – 116,5 De Lacy), following Aristotle (GC 2.3, 331a2–6), as being primarily and paradigmatically moist (and additionally hot).

33 HNH XV 29–31 K = 17,22 – 18,15 Mewaldt.

34 All he probably means is that his monist opponents, far from actually disagreeing, really say nothing more than that everything is one—and, ironically, given their aims—unchanging in the Eleatic manner. It is thus a reductio ad absurdum, rather than a serious piece of exegesis.

35 This is a reference to the Hippocratic author’s claim that “if man were one he would never feel pain” (Nat.Hom. 2.3 = 168,4–5 J), which Galen interprets as involving a highly compressed argument to the effect that all sensation requires genuine affection, which in turn requires physical alteration: Hipp.Elem. I 415–26 K = 58,4 – 68,24 De Lacy; HNH XV 35–37 K = 20,25 – 21,24 Mewaldt.

36 Galen assimilates the accounts of Anaxagoras and Empedocles to those of the atomists since they too deny the real possibility of alteration (cf. 31 B 8–15 DK for Empedocles; 59 B 17 DK for Anaxagoras). Cf. HNH XV 49–50 K = 27,22 – 28,3 Mewaldt: “Hippocrates was the first person that we know of who declared that the elements are mixed together, as we showed a little while ago, and in this way he differs from Empedocles. For while he did say that both we and every other earthly body comes to be from the same elements as Hippocrates did, (in his view) they are not intermixed with one another, but rather sit side by side in very small particles that touch one another. And that this doctrine is susceptible of the same refutation as those which generate perceptible body from insensible and unaffectible primary bodies was shown in my treatise on Elements according to Hippocrates, where I rehearsed pretty much all of the physical doctrines which have arisen regarding first principles and elements.”

37 Hipp.Elem. I 483–84 K = 128,23 – 132,1 De Lacy.

38 Galen’s account of the derivative properties is indebted to that of Aristotle in Meteorology 4.12 (389b24 – 390b22), and elsewhere.

39 In this regard, compare On Mixtures I 518 K = 6,15 – 7,1 Helmreich [Galeni de Temperamentis, Leipzig, Teubner, 1904]: “Since, they say, there are four underlying qualities which have [the capacity] to act on, and to be acted on by, each other: heat, cold dryness and wetness, two oppositions come about here, one in which the hot is opposed to the cold, and the other, in which the dry is opposed to the wet; and because of this four pairings are made as a result” (trans. P. N. Singer, in van der Eijk, op. cit. n. 2, forthcoming).

40 Nat.Fac. II 5 K = SM 3, 103,25 – 104,15 Helmreich.

41 This is a reference to a dispute concerning the nature of mixture between Stoics and Peripatetics; Chrysippus held that a single drop of water could mix entirely with the whole of the sea, such that any portion of the sea, no matter how small or remote, would contain a tincture of wine: DL 7.151 = SVF 2 479 = 48A LS; cf. Plutarch, Common Comceptions 1078e = SVF 2 480 = 48B LS; Chrysippus’s theory of blending is criticized in Alexander, Mixture 216,14 – 218,6 (R. B. Todd, Alexander on Stoic Physics, Leiden, Brill, 1976 = SVF 2 473 = 48C LS).

42 Hipp.Elem. I 489–90 K = 136,15 – 138,5 De Lacy.

43 But see the texts collected in LS 53; esp. 53A–B, SVF 2 988; for Stoic mixture, see LS 48, esp. 48A–D = SVF 2 479, 480, 473, 471.

44 As indeed it still is; I defend Galen’s interpretation in Hankinson, 2014 (op. cit., n. 3).

45 For this famous compound drug, see MM X.281, 352–53, 882–83 K; The Powers of Simple Drugs XII.328 K; On the Composition of Drugs according to Place XII.601–2 K; it is mentioned in the Iatrica Menoneia (14,19–20 = 27 Manetti), in a context which betrays Stoic influence; see SVF 2 472.

46 Hipp.Elem. I 451–52 K = 96,1–16 De Lacy.

47 HNH XV 17-18 K = 11,22 – 12,2 Mewaldt.

48 Hipp.Elem. I 457 K = 102,3–7 De Lacy. The whole chapter, from 457–73 = 102,1 – 118,15, is instructive.

49 Hipp.Elem. I 467 K = 112,5–11 De Lacy.

50 Hipp.Elem. I 468 K = 112,24 – 114,4 De Lacy.

51 Hipp.Elem. I 468 K = 114,6–10 De Lacy.

52 Hipp.Elem. I 469–70 K = 114,10–13 De Lacy.

53 Hipp.Elem. I 469–70 K = 114,13–23 De Lacy.

54 Hipp.Elem. I 474–75 K = 120,7–10 De Lacy.

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Référence électronique

Robert James Hankinson, « Substance, Element, Quality, Mixture:
Galen’s Physics and His Hippocratic Inheritance », Aitia [En ligne], 7.2 | 2017, mis en ligne le 20 novembre 2017, consulté le 20 avril 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/aitia/1863 ; DOI : 10.4000/aitia.1863

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Robert James Hankinson

University of Texas at Austin

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