Empirical and Rational analysis of medical knowledge in the early modern era
by treasurechest on April 11, 2016 - 3:08pm
Empirical: At first glance the anatomical exercises of Dr. William Harvey … concerning the motion of the heart and blood looks similar to a forty-year old book with a blank hardcover front page. The book is approximately six inches by nine with a thick brown casing. While opening the book the reason for which there is a method to flip a page becomes clear. To reveal the next page a “pancake” technique is instructed to the handler, as to prevent further damage to the book, which predates the industrial revolution. When opened the pages tend to revert back towards the middle, to cope with this problem the museum provided a weighted rope to hold down the pages without causing any damage. The table of content contains more information than the average one in today’s society; each chapter has a sentence summarizing the chapter rather than a title. Although it is not overly extravagant the font is fancier than most, this shows that the book was intended to be read by a scholar or someone who is literate. The book is around a kilogram (estimated to be slightly less) the book could easily be placed in the pocket of a large coat and there’s a possibility that a scholar once carried it in their pocket.
Rational: The book’s author is Dr. William Harvey, credited with discovering the circulatory system so finding fault is his work proved challenging. The terminology used by Harvey is very similar to today, meaning that Harvey in fact named the parts of the heart. Medical knowledge before this book took a more rational approach; Harvey changed this method pushing medicine towards the modern day. Harvey uses a lot of metaphors to convey his message comparing the heart to pump. He uses these metaphors because he introduces an entirely new concept to the world. In today’s medical society people are less skeptical about new advances and read them with more of an open mind. The most alarming thing to me is the detail of which Harvey knew about something new. Today the information that is accessible to researchers is much more vast than Harvey’s time period. The justification process however is much more rigorous today then it was then. In the early modern period the quality of academia was understandably at a lower level than it is today due to natural progression and several key historical events and revolutions. Being open to new ideas is very present in modern medicine however the new ideas are put on trial and tested to verify to what degree they are accurate. Harvey presented each section in detail, but much less detail than a book about the circulatory system in the present day. Every piece of medical literature today is 100% secular; Harvey however does not deny the existence of a god. This goes back to the previous paradigm where it was a known fact that there is a god rather than today where there is a large debate of the subject. Harvey believed he was revealing information about god’s creation. A way of rationalizing any problem in the early modern era is god made it that. In modern medicine god receives no credit because in the 21st century paradigm god is not a certainty therefore in a piece of literature attempting to determine ailments with absolute accuracy god is not taken into account.