March 26, 2014


“Galen on Untaught Nature”

The First Joan and Menelaos A. Aliapoulious, M.D. Hellenism Lecture

Brooke Holmes (Princeton University)

5pm Mountcastle Auditorium

Reception to follow at 6pm in the Institute of the History of Medicine, 3rd Floor, Welch Medical Library


Professor Holmes will discuss Galen’s views on the concept of “untaught nature.”  The idea of a nature in the body that is “untaught” goes back to the Hippocratic writers.  It is enthusiastically embraced by Galen as a way of making sense of how the parts of the body “know” how to function without possessing intelligence or reason.  Professor Holmes will analyze some of the difficulties that Galen faced in understanding such natural knowledge, as well as the relationship of untaught nature to the intelligence of the creator god.  She will analyze, too, how the shortcomings of untaught nature open the door to the practice of medicine.