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The Trouble with Opium. Taste, Reason and Experience in Late Galenic Pharmacology with Special Regard to the University of Leiden (1575–1625)

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In the seventeenth century, the discrepancy between the taste of some drugs and their effects on the body was used to criticize Galenic medicine. In this paper, I argue that such contradictions were brought to light by the sixteenth-century study of drug properties within the Galenic tradition itself. Investigating how the taste of a drug corresponded to the effects it had on the body became a core problem for maintaining a medical practice that was both rational and effective. I discuss four physicians, connected to the University of Leiden, who attempted to understand drug properties, including taste, within a Galenic framework. The sixteenth-century discussions about the relationship between the senses, reason and experience, will help us understand the seventeenth-century criticism of Galenic medicine and the importance of discussions about materia medica for ideas regarding the properties of matter proposed in this period.

Affiliations: 1: Utrecht University


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