Elucidating the tractatus
The gratification I have experienced in looking over the writings of these pioneers of medicine, has led me to believe that even this imperfect exposition may be acceptable to many; and that more especially, since few are likely to possess them in their complete and perfect form; yet it is necessary again to repeat, that to estimate the whole by this defective abstract, would be like one who judged of the character of a building by examining a brick which formed a fractional part of it. Medicine is an art that cures the sick, or lessens their pains, and which has nothing to do with incurable diseases: for that which is irremediable, medicine knows not how to attempt its cure.
I have therefore to request all due allowance for this attempt to introduce to my contemporaries, a few faint traces of their medical progenitors, who lived two thousand years before them. And I now proceed to prove, that it performs what it promises, and that it is always capable of doing so; and I will at the same time refute the reasons of those who attack it in those parts, wherein to them it seems most weak. It will be admitted that some of those who apply for medical assistance have been cured, but not all: and it is this which has given rise to the opposition against medicine.
To enable the reader to judge of the difference of opinion that has existed, with respect to the writings that have reached us under the name of Hippocrates, amounting to nearly seventy in number; I have given the arrangement by three editors, viz., Fœsius and Haller, in their Latin translations, and of Gardeil, in a French one; by which it will be seen, that no entire agreement between them is to be found. Its enemies assert, that the larger part of those attacked by the same disease, and who are restored to health, owe it to good luck, and not to the rules of art.
One thing alone seems evident, viz., that of these seventy treatises, about twelve or fourteen only, are uniformly attributed to this illustrious man. Now, I have no desire to rob Fortune of her just rights, and therefore I must acknowledge that all who are well attended to, are very fortunate, whilst those who are neglected or illy treated, are extremely unlucky.
That medicine, although of the highest rank, had yet been extremely degraded, and points out the causes.
The rules for its attainment are stated particularly, under six requisites, in order to become fully masters of the science. It has been illustrated by Zwingerus, Heurnius, Fonseca, and others.— Of all the arts, medicine is the most illustrious; but the ignorance of its professors, and that of those who judge of their qualifications, is the cause of its having been considered as among the most contemptible. The order of the treatise is a dissertation against the calumniators of medicine, whether sophists or the common people. To pretend to tarnish the labours of others by idle remarks without improving them, for the sole purpose of lessening their merit in the eyes of ignorance, is a proof rather of malevolence than of a good disposition. —“Lex, νομος, licet proprie non sit terminus medicus, Hippocrates tamen transsumsit e foro politico in medicum, &c.” De necessitate legum adversus pseudomedicos, vide C. Some notice is taken of several of the cavities, the cellular tissue, &c. Many undertake to decry the arts, not from any expectation of destroying them, but merely to evince their genius.a The real intention of an enlightened mind, however, is that of attempting to discover something new that may be useful, or to perfect that which is already known.My copy of Fœsius bears the date of 1624,—that of Haller, 1775,—and that of Gardeil, 1801. Hence, they are in this respect altogether absolved from all acknowledgment to the former, but not so with respect to art.Since then, an edition has been given by Kühn, in 1825, in which he chiefly follows Fœsius, with few alterations. They recognise art, insomuch as they pursued its rules, and cannot deny its existence, when evinced in the effects it has produced.