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4. Plato's References to Hippocrates

In the Protagoras (311 B) Plato assumes the case of a young man who goes to Ἱπποκράτη τὸν Κῷον, τὸν τῶν Ἀς1κληπιαδῶν, to learn medicine. This passage tells us little except that Hippocrates took pupils for a fee. But in the Phaedrus (270 C--E) there is another passage which professes to set forth the true Hippocratic method. It is as follows :--

  Socrates. Do you think it possible, then, satisfactorily to comprehend the nature of soul apart from the nature of the universe?   ΣΩ. Ψυχῆς2 οὐν φύς1ιν ἀξίως2 λόγου κατανοῆς1αι οἴει δυνατὸν εἶναι ἄνευ τῆς2 τοῦ ὅλου φύς1εως2;
  Phaedrus. Nay, if we are to believe Hippocrates, of the Asclepiad family, we cannot learn even about the body unless we follow this method of procedure.   ΦΑΙ. Εἰ μὲν οὖν Ἱπποκράτει γε τῷ τῶν Ἀς1κληπιαδῶν δεῖ τι πείθες1θαι, οὐδὲ περὶ ς1ώματος2 ἄνευ τῆς2 μεθόδου ταύτης2.
  Socrates. Yes, my friend, and he is right. Yet besides the doctrine of Hippocrates, we must examine our argument and see if it harmonizes with it.   ΣΩ. Καλῶς2 γάρ, ἑταῖρε, λἐγει. χρὴ μέντοι πρὸς2 τῷ Ἱπποκράτει τὸν λόγον ἐξετάζοντα ς1κοπεῖν εἰ ς1υμφωνεῖ.
  Phaedrus. Yes.   ΦΑΙ. Φημί.
  Socrates. Observe, then, what it is that both Hippocrates and correct argument mean by an examination of nature. Surely it is in the following way that we must inquire into the nature of anything. In the first place we must see whether that, in which we shall wish to be craftsmen and to be able to make others so, is simple or complex. In the next place, if it be simple, we must inquire what power nature has given it of acting, and of acting upon what ; what power of being acted upon, and by what. If on the other hand it be complex, we must enumerate its parts, and note in the case of each what we noted in the case of the simple thing, through what natural power it acts, and upon what, or through what it is acted upon, and by what.   ΣΩ. Τὸ τοίνυν περὶ φύς1εως2 ς1κόπει τί ποτε λέγει Ἱπποκράτης2 τε καὶ ἀληθὴς2 λόγος2. ἆρ' οὐχ ὧδε δεῖ διανοεῖς1θαι περὶ ὁτουοῦν φύς1εως2; πρῶτον μέν, ἁπλοῦν πολυειδές2 ἐς1τιν, οὗ πέρι βουλης1όμεθα εἶναι αὐτοὶ τεχνικοὶ καὶ ἄλλον δυνατοὶ ποιεῖν, ἔπειτα δέ, ἐὰν μὲν ἁπλοῦν , ς1κοπεῖν τὴν δύναμιν αὐτοῦ, τίνα πρὸς2 τί πέφυκεν εἰς2 τὸ δρᾶν ἔχον τίνα εἰς2 τὸ παθεῖν ὑπὸ τοῦ; ἐὰν δὲ πλείω εἴδη ἔχῃ, ταῦτα ἀριθμης1άμενον, ὅπερ ἐφ' ἑνός2, τοῦτ' ἰδεῖν ἐφ̓ ἑκάς1του, τῷ τί ποιεῖν αὐτὸ πέφυκεν τῷ τί παθεῖν ὑπὸ τοῦ;--Phaedrus 270 C, D.

It is obvious that if we could find passages in the Hippocratic collection which clearly maintain the doctrine propounded in this part of the Phaedrus we should be able to say with confidence that the

[p. xxxv] Hippocrates of history and tradition was the author of such and such a treatise.

Galen maintains that Plato refers to the treatise Nature of Man. I believe that few readers of the latter will notice any striking resemblances between this work1 and the doctrine outlined by Plato. More plausible is the view of Littré, that Plato refers to Chapter XX of Ancient Medicine, which contains the following passage :--

ἐπεὶ τοῦτό γε μοι δοκεῖ ἀναγκαῖον εἶναι παντὶ ἰητρῷ περὶ φύς1ιος2 εἰδέναι, καὶ πάνυ ς1πουδάς1αι ὡς2 εἴς1εται, εἴπερ τι μέλλει τῶν δεόντων ποιής1ειν, τί τέ ἐς1τιν ἄνθρωπος2 πρὸς2 τὰ ἐς1θιόμενά τε καὶ πινόμενα, καὶ τι πρὸς2 τὰ ἄλλα ἐπιτηδεύματα, καὶ τι ἀφ᾽ ἑκάς1του ἑκάς1τῳ ς1υμβής1εται.

Here the resemblance is closer--close enough to show that the author of Ancient Medicine, if he be not the Hippocrates of history, at least held views similar to his. And here the question must be left. Few would maintain with Littré that the resemblance between the two passages is so striking that they must be connected ; few again would deny that Plato was thinking of Ancient Medicine. Ignorance and uncertainty seem to be the final result of most of the interesting problems presented by the Hippocratic collection.

1 To my mind the closest resemblances are in Chapters VII and VIII, which deal with the relations between the "four humours" and the four seasons.

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