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Mental and physical gradualism in Graeco-Roman medicine 

Mental and physical gradualism in Graeco-Roman medicine
Mental and physical gradualism in Graeco-Roman medicine
Vagueness in Psychiatry

Orly Lewis

, Chiara Thumiger

, and Philip van der Eijk


The aim of this chapter is to explore how ancient medical ideas offer relevant parallels to the modern notions of degree vagueness and combinatorial vagueness with respect to mental health and its management. By closely examining several key examples, this chapter argues that Graeco-Roman physicians recognized physical and mental health as states that admit of gradation and were aware of the nuances, variations, and even the relativity of the distinction between ‘healthy’ and ‘ill’. When it comes to notions of physical and mental health, these nuances are both quantitative and qualitative. One of the characteristics of Graeco-Roman medicine is the consideration given to a body–mind continuum as something that is subject to health and disease and can be the object of medical attention. Section 2 introduces ancient conceptions of physical health and demonstrates the relevance of degree and combinatorial vagueness in this domain. Section 3 focuses on mental health.

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