04462 - History of Science and Technique (G.A)

Academic Year 2022/2023

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Philosophy (cod. 9216)

Learning outcomes

The history of science is by now a discipline present in almost all Italian universities and part of many degree courses of study, both in the humanities and sciences. The central role this course plays in university education is principally based on two fundamental motivations: 1) the recognition of the history of science as an ideal discipline in order to surpass the problematic fracture between humanist culture and scientific culture 2) the evidence that the development of science and technology is the most decisive and apparent aspect of the contemporary world. The history of science and technique course is therefore firstly characterised by its highly interdisciplinary content and by the possibility to offer outlooks of analysis and study that differ from and are alternative to the traditional approach of fields of knowledge, both in the humanist and scientific worlds.

Course contents

Medicine of the Mind, Philosophy of the Body

The course will explore the relationship between science and philosophy in the ancient medical thought, thus following the development of Graeco-Roman medicine from Hippocrates – the founder of Western medicine – to Galen. Indeed, the origins of Hippocratic medicine are deeply rooted in the ancient philosophical discourse, while, at the same time, some Hippocratic authors tried to define the scope of their art in opposition with the coeval natural philosophy. Moreover, medicine is clearly entangled with scientific and philosophical doctrines in Galen’s project of refunding the medical art.

Particular attention will be devoted to how the main physicians and natural philosophers framed the relationships between soul, mind and body in Antiquity. We will investigate specific mental illnesses and psychopathologies, their ancient descriptions and conceptualizations.

The classes will be divided into 4 units (15 hours each):

(1) Hippocratic medicine and the madness. After a short introduction to Hippocrates and his writings, we will focus on the works: “On the Sacred Disease”, which deals with the alleged divine origin of epilepsy and the functions of the brain; “Letters on Democritus’ Madness”, which deal with the alleged madness of the ancient atomist.

(2) Aristotle, the brain and melancholy. After a short introduction to Aristotle’s biology, we will focus on the pseudo-Aristotelian text (Problem XXX.1): “Why are all the extraordinary men melancholic?”

(3) Psychopathologies in the Hellenistic medicine. After analyzing the main advances in the anatomy, we will focus on the development of specific medical concepts: mania, hallucination, illusion, phantasy.

(4) Mind and Body in Galen. After a short introduction to Galen, we will focus on the treatise “The Capacities of the Soul Depend on the Mixtures of the Body”, which deals with the relationship between physiology and human passions, which are here understood as pathēmata of the soul.


Texts for the exam

A) Manuals

(1) V. Gazzaniga, La medicina antica, Roma: Carocci, 2018

(2) J. Pigeaud, La follia nell'antichità classica. La mania e i suoi rimedi, a cura di A. D’Alessandro (Venezia: Marsilio, 1995), pp. 78-249

B) Primary sources in translation

(3) Hippocrates, The Sacred Disease. Suggested translation: W.H.S. Jones, Hippocrates (London, Cambridge, Mass.: Loeb, 1952), vol 2, pp. 127-183.

(4) Hippocrates, Letters on Democritus' Madness. Suggested translation: Hippocrates, Pseudepigraphic writings: Letters—Embassy—Speech from the Altar—Decree, ed. and transl. by Wesley D. Smith (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1990), Letters 10-17

(5) Aristotele, Problema XXX, 1. Perché tutti gli uomini straordinari sono melanconici, a cura di B. Centrone (Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2018)

(6)  Galen, The Capacities of the Body Depend on the Mixtures of the Body (Quod animi mores). Suggested translation: P. Singer (ed.), Galen's Psychological Writings (Cambridge: CUP, 2014), pp. 335-424.

Students who will not attend classes are also expected to read:

(7) The whole book by J. Pigeaud (n. 2)

(8) G. Ecca, Etica medica sulle orme di Ippocrate (Milano: Editrice Bibliografia, 2018).

Teaching methods

Traditional lectures about the topics of the course;

Relevant passages of both medical and philosophical ancient sources will be read and commented on during the classes.

Students will be encouraged to deliver short presentations on particular topics (either individually or in groups)

Assessment methods

The exam consists in an oral interview during which the methodological and critical skills acquired by the student will be evaluated . The student will be invited to discuss the texts covered during the course and to contextualise them in their historical epoch. The achievement of a systematic knowlege of the issues addressed during the classes and a critical approach to the sources combined with precision of language will be assessed with marks of excellence (28-30). Mechanical and / or mnemonic knowledge of the texts combined with scholastic exposé will be assessed by good marking (23-27); training gaps and superficial contextualization and knoledge of the texts will be assessed with sufficient markings (18-22). Lacks of any of the above requirements will lead to a negative marking.

Teaching tools

Use of ppt slides and multimedia educational tools.

Office hours

See the website of Matteo Martelli


Good health and well-being Quality education Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.