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This chapter explores two scripts of thauma (marvel/wonder) regarding the interior of the human body: the first derives from the Aristotelian idea that a purpose can be assigned to virtually everything in the world, our interior organs included; as soon as the design within our bodies has been figured out, our interior instantly enters the realm of the beautiful. The second script of marvel pertains to the idea that there are little ‘machines’ and ‘sub-machines’ inside of us, with their own complex structures and their own distinctive power to make us marvel at their artistry and efficiency. Considerable attention has been paid recently on the reevaluation of the presumed polarity between teleology and mechanics in ancient Greek philosophy and medicine. Rather than assume a mutually exclusive relationship between the two, scholars argue that the two models can be seen as converging and combining with each other in a number of significant ways. An organ which looks like a machine is still working with a specific purpose; in fact, its machine-like design can be adduced as a confirmation of the fact that nature did everything in wisdom. Differences, however, persist, and one of them relates to the important issue that teleology ascribes the purpose of things to an invisible force, whereas a mēchanē has a human constructor. To argue that the body can be figurally understood in analogy with a machine can thus be seen as opening, among other things, new avenues concerning the question of how we look at and appreciate the body’s marvellous properties: kallos in this case, while still being thought to ultimately derive from a superhuman designer, is simultaneously more concretely understood and appreciated in practice with direct reference to the inventiveness of the human mind.
The idea of the body as a machine constitutes one of the central analogies in early modern Western thought. From Descartes’ Treatise of Man (written in the 1630s) to the Iatromechanist School of medicine, and from La Mettrie’s Man a Machine (1747) and de Vaucanson’s automata to science fiction’s fascination with cyborgs, robots and androids, mechanical models have been employed to reproduce and mimic one aspect or another of life itself. One of the aims of the present collection of essays has been to show that the conceptual origins of this early modern body–machine concept can be traced back to texts, scientific theories and ideas of classical antiquity. The technological artefact – be it a simple device or a more complex machine – in the texts and authors which we have been exploring does not stand in isolation from the flesh, bones, fluids and organs that make up the human body; on the contrary, they intersect with the latter in a number of significant ways.
*In December 2018, a group of archaeologists, philosophers, historians and classicists came together at the University of Cyprus to discuss body–machine interactions in Greek and Roman antiquity. The idea for this volume has grown from that conversation. We would like to thank the University of Cyprus and the Department of Classics there for their support.
This innovative and wide-ranging volume is the first systematic exploration of the multifaceted relationship between human bodies and machines in classical antiquity. It examines the conception of the body and bodily processes in mechanical terms in ancient medical writings, and looks into how artificial bodies and automata were equally configured in human terms; it also investigates how this knowledge applied to the treatment of the disabled and the diseased in the ancient world. The volume examines the pre-history of what develops, at a later stage, and more specifically during the early modern period, into the full science of iatromechanics in the context of which the human body was treated as a machine and medical treatments were devised accordingly. The volume facilitates future dialogue between scholars working on different areas, from classics, history and archaeology to history of science, philosophy and technology.
A long-standing question in affective sciences concerns the exact relationship between ‘appraisal’ and what are usually identified as the bodily aspects of emotion. In contrast with earlier approaches, especially in the field of psychology, which proposed that appraisal should be treated as a disembodied cognitive phenomenon, there has subsequently been a tendency to implicate the body more actively: emphasis on bodily differentiation has increasingly helped to associate emotions with distinctive physiological profiles, while it is now acknowledged that changes in the state of one's non-neural body can influence the way we think as well as emotion experience more generally. Even so, as Giovanna Colombetti observes, today's appraisal theory still maintains that the cognitive component of emotion ‘remains’ largely ‘in the head, separate from the body’; consequently, the bodily aspects of emotion, though regarded as ‘instrumentally related’ to it, continue, in essence, to be seen as ‘extrinsic to the appraising process’: the body is at best ‘a means to the appraising process, not a part of it’.
The aim of this chapter is to explore the place assigned to emotions in the Hippocratic Corpus (fifth to fourth century BCE) by drawing attention to the remarkable fact that, despite the many detailed theories regarding the seat and function of the mind in classical medicine,6 we find no systematic account of what we would identify today, in an affective context, as an ‘appraising process’. When discussed by medical writers, emotions such as fear, sadness, surprise and happiness tend to be almost exclusively identified with their associated bodily symptoms; once we look beyond these symptoms, there is no ‘mind-stuff’ left behind out of which the emotion can be constituted (or, at least, doctors express no interest in exploring it in detail). This model of thought, as I propose to show, comes in contrast with Aristotle's cognitivist approach in the Rhetoric. According to Aristotle, while the capacity to experience a range of emotions is innate in our species, the actual experience of any given emotion is informed by the judgements and beliefs that engage it, giving it its ‘aboutness’; emotions, πάθη, in this interpretation should be understood to mean ‘all those things on account of which people change and differ in their judgements (μεταβάλλοντες διαφέρουσι πρὸς τὰς κρίσεις), and upon which pain and pleasure follow’ (Rh. 1378a19–23).
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