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date: 02 April 2020

Summary and Keywords

Empiricists were a self-identified medical sect of the Hellenistic and Imperial periods who shared a common experiential methodology about the purpose and practice of medicine. Denigrating unobservable causes and experimental medicine, they espoused a sceptical, passive approach to accumulated observations about the body and the natural world. Since few Empiricist texts survive, historical knowledge depends largely on the medical doxographies of later ancient physicians who were not Empiricists. Doxographies report that Empiricists practiced a controlled experiential medicine based on personal observation, written reports from previous physicians, and analogical reasoning from known to unfamiliar conditions. The importance of chance and memory to their medical practice along with a willingness to compare themselves to tradesmen of lesser status distinguished their philosophical medicine from other ancient medical sects.

Keywords: empiricism, medicine, scepticism, medical schools, autopsia

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