Rationality, Theatricality, and Identity – The Enduring Attributes of Hippocratic Medicine




Olson, Cody

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Hippocratic philosophy, originating in the 5th century B.C.E., has maintained an enduring influence over the practice of medicine for over two millennia. This thesis argues that three core Hippocratic principles—rationality, theatricality, and identity—have shaped modern medicine in a particularly interesting fashion. Rationality fostered the separation of medicine from other forms of magico-religious healing. It also promoted the educational reform and therapeutic advancement characteristic of the Hippocratic physicians. Theatricality in medicine developed from the physician’s need to inspire awe and confidence in his patient base. The performative behavior and symbols that helped ancient physicians build rapport have analogs in modern medicine. Finally, the Hippocratic Corpus and the Oath in particular set a precedent for the sense of personal ownership the physician should feel for their craft. It demonstrates that the responsibility of a physician influences their behavior in both professional and private affairs.



History of Medicine, Hippocratic Medicine, Rational Medicine, Performative Medicine, Physician Identity