"The Symptom and the Subject" takes an in-depth look at how the
physical body first emerged in the West as both an object of
knowledge and a mysterious part of the self. Beginning with Homer,
moving through classical-era medical treatises, and closing with
studies of early ethical philosophy and Euripidean tragedy, this
book rewrites the traditional story of the rise of body-soul
dualism in ancient Greece. Brooke Holmes demonstrates that as the
body (soma) became a subject of physical inquiry, it decisively
changed ancient Greek ideas about the meaning of suffering, the
soul, and human nature.
By undertaking a new examination of biological and medical
evidence from the sixth through fourth centuries BCE, Holmes argues
that it was in large part through changing interpretations of
symptoms that people began to perceive the physical body with the
senses and the mind. Once attributed primarily to social agents
like gods and daemons, symptoms began to be explained by physicians
in terms of the physical substances hidden inside the person.
Imagining a daemonic space inside the person but largely below the
threshold of feeling, these physicians helped to radically
transform what it meant for human beings to be vulnerable, and
ushered in a new ethics centered on the responsibility of taking
care of the self.
"The Symptom and the Subject" highlights with fresh importance
how classical Greek discoveries made possible new and deeply
influential ways of thinking about the human subject.
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