A Passage from Alcmaeon

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RandyGibbons
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A Passage from Alcmaeon

Post by RandyGibbons » Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:19 pm

In the history of ancient medicine, there is a well-known doxographic fragment from Alcmaeon of Croton (DK [Alcmaeon] B4) on health and disease. Below is the complete fragment, and I would be interested in any comments on the underlined sentence.
Ἀ. [sc. Alcmaeon says] τῆς μὲν ὑγείας εἶναι συνεκτικὴν τὴν ἰσονομίαν τῶν δυνάμεων, ὑγροῦ, ξηροῦ, ψυχροῦ, θερμοῦ, πικροῦ, γλυκέος καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν, τὴν δ’ ἐν αὐτοῖς μοναρχίαν νόσου ποιητικήν· φθοροποιὸν γὰρ ἑκατέρου μοναρχίαν. καὶ νόσον συμπίπτειν ὡς μὲν ὑφ’ οὗ ὑπερβολῇ θερμότητος ἢ ψυχρότητος, ὡς δὲ ἐξ οὗ διὰ πλῆθος σίτων ἢ ἔνδειαν, ὡς δ’ ἐν οἷς αἵμα ἢ μυελὸν ἢ ἐγκέφαλον. ἐγγίνεσθαι δὲ τούτοις ποτὲ κἀκ τῶν ἔξωθεν αἰτιῶν, ὑδάτων ποιῶν ἢ χώρας ἢ κόπων ἢ ἀνάγκης ἢ τῶν τούτοις παραπλησίων. τὴν δὲ ὑγείαν τὴν σύμμετρον τῶν ποιῶν κρᾶσιν.
The meaning of the underlined sentence is quite clear: Disease befalls from an excess (a μοναρχία - the fragment is famous for that metaphor) of the elements hot or cold, from a surfeit or deprivation of food, and it occurs in the blood or marrow or brain. But some questions: If you were translating this into English, how would you translate ὡς (ὡς μὲν, ὡς δε, ὡς δὲ)? How would you explain, grammatically and/or semantically, the οὗ in ὑφ’ οὗ and ἐξ οὗ? Are ὑφ’ οὗ and ἐξ οὗ and ἐν οἷς, or perhaps ὡς ὑφ’ οὗ and ὡς ἐξ οὗ and ὡς ἐν οἷς Aristotelian or Aristotelian-like categories?

I confess the latter didn't occur to me until I saw the translation on Perseus "the efficient cause of the disease is ... the material cause is ... the place is ...". (Here is another English translation. Cf. Diels' translation in DK: "Und zwar ließen sich die Krankheitsfälle, was die Ursache angehe, auf das Übermaß von Hitze oder Kälte zurückführen, was die Veranlassung, auf Übermaß oder Mangel an Speise, was die Örtlichkeit, so würden Blut, Mark oder Hirn betroffen; ...").

Your thoughts?

Constantinus Philo
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Re: A Passage from Alcmaeon

Post by Constantinus Philo » Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:46 pm

The terminology is not aristotelian and they are not categories of course but causes.
Semper Fidelis

Constantinus Philo
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Re: A Passage from Alcmaeon

Post by Constantinus Philo » Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:58 pm

καὶ νόσον συμπίπτειν ὡς μὲν ὑφ’ οὗ ὑπερβολῇ θερμότητος ἢ ψυχρότητος, ὡς δὲ ἐξ οὗ διὰ πλῆθος σίτων ἢ ἔνδειαν, ὡς δ’ ἐν οἷς αἵμα ἢ μυελὸν ἢ ἐγκέφαλον. Disease happens as (for instance) 'by which': ie excess of the hot or the cold element (Aristotle's efficient cause), or as (for instance) 'from which': ie through the surfeit of nourishment or its scarcity ( this is something like Aristotle's formal cause, which he defines in the Met. as το δια τι πρωτον), or as (for instance) 'in which': blood, marrow, brain (Aristotle's material cause). In the translation to which you have provided a reference, ἐξ οὗ is erroneously translated as 'material cause', however, surfeit or scarcity are not matter but quantity considered here asa form I guess.
Semper Fidelis

RandyGibbons
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Re: A Passage from Alcmaeon

Post by RandyGibbons » Mon Jun 03, 2019 4:19 pm

The terminology is not aristotelian and they are not categories of course but causes.
You're right, and thanks for making me realize I was a bit sloppy in using the term "categories", which of course has a special meaning (and its own Wikipedia article!) when talking about Aristotle. And the terminology technically can't be Aristotleian, since Alcmaeon, though his dates are up for grabs, was definitely fifth century, i.e., well before Aristotle. Furthermore, the fragment purports to be a direct quote (i.e., it is a "B" fragment in Diels' scheme), so the language is not that of a post-Aristotle doxographer.

What had me thinking of Aristotle was the Perseus translation "efficient cause ... material cause", which must be the translator imposing his own knowledge of Aristotle onto his interpretation and translation of the passage. Let me rephrase the question: How would you (anyone) explain, grammatically and semantically, the phrases ὡς ὑφ’ οὗ and ὡς ἐξ οὗ and ὡς ἐν οἷς?
Disease happens as (for instance) 'by which': ie excess of the hot or the cold element (Aristotle's efficient cause), as (for instance) by means of which': ie through abundance of nourishment or its scarcity (Aristotle's proximate cause), as (for instance) 'in which': blood, marrow, brain (Aristotle's material cause).
For the reasons stated, let's leave Aristotle out of it for now. I'm afraid I don't see the answer to my (rephrased) question here. Grammatically, for example, what is your explanation of the relative pronouns? Semantically, I don't think Alcmaeon is saying "for instance" (is that your interpretation of ὡς?); as I see it at least, he is laying down absolutisms. (Please take this as a discussion, not a debate; if I was sure of myself, I wouldn't have posted the question :D .)

RandyGibbons
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Re: A Passage from Alcmaeon

Post by RandyGibbons » Tue Jun 04, 2019 6:32 pm

For the record, it should have occurred to me before to also check the translation of the new (2016) Loeb edition of the Presocratic fragments by André Laks and Glenn Most. Here it is:
And sickness occurs, with regard to the agent, from excess of heat or cold; with regard to the [scil. material] origin, from abundance or lack of nourishment; and with regard to place, blood, marrow, or the brain;
The brackets are the editors'. Their "with regard to" to be compared to Diels's "was x angehe"; and ὑφ’ οὗ = "the agent" = "die Ursache", ἐξ οὗ = "the origin" = "die Veranlassung", ἐν οἷς = "place" = "die Örtlichkeit".

I'm still interested in any commentary - grammatical, semantic, historical, comparative - on ὡς ὑφ’ οὗ, ὡς ἐξ οὗ, ὡς ἐν οἷς. I find it interesting that LM also add "[scil. material]" to their translation.

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