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What Is Medicine?Western and Eastern Approaches to Healing$
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Paul Unschuld

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780520257658

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520257658.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022

The End of Monarchy

The End of Monarchy

24 The End of Monarchy
What Is Medicine?

Paul U. Unschuld

University of California Press

This chapter sheds light on the doctrine of the four elements of life. A man named Empedocles who lived in the fifth century brought an idea that no single element, water, apeiron, or air, can be the foundation of all life, but that the foundation is rather an equal coexistence of four elements or basic substances. Fire, water, air, and earth are all equally important for life. It is their mixture that creates life, indeed, even the entire universe. The body disclosed no real clues that fire, water, air, and earth were its basic substances. It was sometimes hot, sometimes cold that could be taken as a clue to the existence of fire in the organism. The body excretes up to two liters of fluid at regular intervals and there are further excretions such as sweat or tears at irregular intervals, or under special circumstances. It was the sufficient evidence for water as a basic substance for life. The four elements in a mixture are present in larger or smaller quantities determining the individual nature of things.

Keywords:   doctrine of the four elements, basic substances for life, origin of medicine, human organism, physiological studies

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