The relations between medical profession and philosophy according to Razi

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Physician, philosopher, chemist and freethinker, al- Razi (c. 250/864 -313/925 or 320/932), known to the Latins as Rhazes, was born, as his name suggests, in Rayy, near present-day Tehran. Well. versed, according to tradition, in musical theory and practice, he is said to have been an alchemist before his formal training in medicine. He headed hospitals in Rayy and later in Baghdad, returning often to Rayy, where he died. His great houses in Rayy and elsewhere in the south Caspian district of Jibal attested his wealth. The author of some two hundred works, he is said to have taught the Jacobite Christian philosopher/translator Yahya ibn Adi (893-974) and was called “the unsurpassed physician of Islam” (The encomium is from Sa’id Tabaqat al- umamm (Berut, 1912): 52-3) But later thinkers generally rejected his philosophical ideas, typically with repugnance, although influenced by him even in rebuttal.

Razi’s important medical books
Dedicated to the Samanid governor of Rayy, al- Mansur ibn Ishaq (d. 313/925), al- Razi’s Mansur was said by Ali ibn al- Abbas (d.385/994) to omit nothing essential to medical practice, although offering few explanations of its dicta. Its twelfth- century Latin translation by Gerard of Cremona, the Liber Almansoris, became a mainstay of medical education, Liber nonus, its ninth books, was still used in late sixteenth- century Europe.Al-Razi’s Muluki, or Regius, was dedicated to Ali ibn Weh- Sudhan of Tabaristan.

Razi’s private medical journal notebook
But what is perhaps al- Razi’s best- knwn work was not meant for publication. Often confused with his magnum opus the Kitab al- jami al- kabir (“Great Medical Compendium”), the Continens (Kitab al- hawi fi’l-tibb) was al-Razi’s private medical journal and notebook. Ubaydallah ibn Jibril, a fifth/ eleventh –century scion of the famous Bukhtishu medical family, tells how it was preserved at the instance of the warrior scholar/statesman Ibn al- Amid (appointed in 327/939 vizier to Rukn al- Dawlah, d. 349/ 960), who bought the pages from al- Razi’s sister and commissioned al- Razi’s students to edit the text. Filling some twenty-five volumes, the Hawi was the most voluminous of Arabic medical texts, its Latin translation for King Charles of Anjou, completed in 1279 by the Jewish physician Faraj ibn Salem (“Farraguth”), absorbed mush of the translator’s life. (Ibn Abu Usaybi’ay Uyun al- anba’ fi’ tabaqat (Cairo, 1882), 1: 314, see M. Meyerhof, “Thirty- Three Clinical Observations by Rhazes”, Isis, 23 (1935): 321-56. The Latin Continens was printed at Brescia in 1489 and repeatedly in the next century.) Arranged anatomically, “from top to toe”, it collated al- Razi’s learning and observations on all aspects of pathology, hygiene and therapeutics, using Greek, Byzantine, Syriac and sometimes Indian sources, especially in the tradition from Hippocrates to Ishaq ibn Hunayn(d.298/910). It included al- Razi’s records of his self- treatment when it. Opinions are noted dispassionately, but the sections regularly end with al- Razi’s own views and clinical observations, under the heading li, my own. Al- Razi kept up the file system of the Hawi throughout his life and quarried it in writing his books, Besides the published works identifiable in draft, three nearly finished books are embedded here in embryo: On Fevers and on Crises and Critical Day. (see Albert Z. Iskandar, “The Medical Bibliography of al- Razi”, in G. Hourani(ed). Essays on Islamic philosophy and Science (Albany, 1975): 41-6.)

Subjects and tiles of Razi’s medical books
Al- Razi’s medical writings included works on diet and treatment, paralysis, arthritis, diabetes, colic and b gout, anatomies of the liver, eye, teates, ear and heart, a study on the dilation of the pupil, an abridgment of Galen’s (129-c.199) De pluribus, and a warning against premature purging of fever patients. Among his most famous works were Gallstones, Kidney and Bladder and Smallpox and Measles, the first work devoted to smallpox, translated over a dozen times into Latin and other European languages. Its lack of dogmatism and Hippocratic reliance on clinical observation typify al-Razi’s medical approach. (See W. A. Greenhill, trans on the Smallpox and Measles (London, 1857) Koning, trans, Traite sur calcul, les reins et la vessie (Leiden. 1896) His irreverent spirit peeps out more puckishly from the titles of some of his books on medical profession: On the Reasons for People’s Preference of Inferior Physicians, To Whoever is Unattended by a Physician, A Mistaken View of the Function of the Physician, On Why Some People Leave a Physician if he is Intelligent, That an Intelligent Physician Cannot Heal all, Diseases, Since that is not Possible and Why Ignorant Physician, Common Folk, and Women in the Cities are more Successful than Scientists in Treating Certain Diseases- and the Physician’s Excuse for This.

Razi’s non-medical works and subjects
Al-Razi heeded the counsel of Galen’s work, That the Outstanding Physician must also be a Philosopher. Al- Biruni ( 362/973-c.442/1050) lists some eighty philosophical titles in his al- Razi bibliography, and al- Nadim lists dozens of his works on logic, cosmology, theology, mathematics and alchemy.(Al- Biruni, Risalah fi Fihrist kutub M. b. Zakariya’ al-Razi (Paris, 1936), ed. with Persian trans, M. Mohaghegh (Tehran, 1984/5), al- Nadim, Fihrist, trans. B. Dodge (New York, 1970): 82, 377, 435, 599,701-9) Among his writings are a commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, perhaps based on the epitome of Galen, (Galeni compendium Timaei Platonis, 14, ed. P. Kraus, and R. Walzer in Plato Arabus (London, 1951): 19, 65-6. But al- Birunt ascribes translation as well abridgments to al- Razi, and even mentions a poem of his, “in the Greek language”. Al- Razi knew Plutarch’s One the Production of the Soul in the Timaeus, as Frank Peters points out. Peters writes: “No Arabic version of a platonic dialogue has been preserved. And yet Ibn al- Nadim, writing in the late tenth century at the height of Islam’s reception of Hellenism m knew …of translations of the Republic, the Laws, the Sophist, the Timaeus, and finally the letters. ourselves in the presence of epitomes rather than translations” (Allah’s Commonwealth New York1973), 287- 8.) A rebuttal of Iamblichu’s response to Porphyry’s Letter to Anebos, (Peters writes: “Iamblichus the author of One the Mysteries of the Egyptians is transformed into the mysterious Anebo (Anabun), the priest to whom Porphyry directed the original letter…. We do not, of course possess the Greek of Porphyry’s letter to Anebo, though the Arabs certainly did, at least in part”(Allah’s Commonwealth: 291). Lamblichus answers Porphyry in his De mysteriis, trans. Thomas Taylor as On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians (London, 1968 [1821]). Although the name lamblichus vanishes, al- Razi would side with Porphyry’s critical questioning, counter to lamblichus work, which is couched as The Answer of the Preceptor Abammon to the Epistle of Porphyry to Anebo.) An appraisal of the Qur’an, a critique of Mu’tazilism, another on the infallible Imam of the Ismai’lis, a work on how to measure intelligence, an introduction to and vindication of algenbra,(Although it has earlier roots, algebra was established in Arabic mathematics in 236/ 850, by al- Khwarazmi’s use of two methods for reducing specific problems to canonical form, in his Kitab al- mukutasar fi hisab al- jabr – muqabalah, see Encylopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden), s. v. “al- djabr.”) a defence of the soul’s in corporeality, a debate with a Manichaean, and an explanation of the difficulty people have in accepting the sphericity of the each when they are not trained in rigorous demonstration.

Al-Razi wrote works on eros, coitus nudity and clothing, the fatal effects of the Simoom on animal life, the seasons of autumn and spring the wisdom of the Creator, and the reason for the creation of wild beasts and reptiles. One work defends the proposition that God does not interfere with the actions of other agents. Another rebuts the claim that the earth revolves. Al- Razi discussed the innate or intrinsic character of motion, a sore point between Democritean and Aristotelian physics; he wrote several treatments of the natural of matter, and one the unseen causes of motion. His expose of the risks of ignoring the axioms, and his book on the diagonal of the square may have defended his own atomism against the ancient charge, first leveled al Pythagoreanism, that atomism excludes the demonstrated incommensurability of a square’s side with its diagonal – a charge disarmed by al- Razi’s acceptance of the void and rejection of Aristotle’s doctrine of the relativity of space. For al- Razi’s absolute space is a Euclidean continuum and need not, like matter m be composed of discrete, indivisible quanta.

The relation between medical profession, philosophy and psychology according to Razi
Only a few short works, fragments and essays (The term is used by al- Razi himself, as al- Nadim notes. The essay from grew from the epistolary style in early Arabic prose and so bore the name risalah, originally, a letter.) Survive of al- Razi’s philosophical writings, but the record of his conversation shows that he regarded philosophy not as an adjunt to medical work but as an end in itself. His Tibb al- ruhani, written for al- Mansur as a companion to the Mansur, follows al-Kindi’s precedent in treating ethics as a kind of psychic medicine or clinical psychology, an approach later used by Ibn Gabirol and Maimonides. (See Ibn Gabirol, Tikkun middot ha-nefesh, trans. Stephen S. Wise, as On the Improvement of the Moral Qualities (New York, 1902), Maimonides, Shemonah Perakim, trans. Joseph I. Gorfinkle, as The Eight Chapters of Maimonides on Ethics (Now York, 1912), both works were reprinted in Now York by AMS in 1966.) Hence the title, Spiritual Physick, as quaintly archaized by Arberry, that is, Spiritual or Psychological Medicine. (The Spiritual Physick of Rhazes (London, 1950), and see M. Mohaghegh, “Notes on the Spiritual Physick of al- Razi”, Studia Islamica, 26 (1967): 5-22.) In an apologia pro vita The Philosophical Way of Life (Kitab al- sirat l- falsafiyyah) al-Razi describes his lifestyle, defensively but revealingly, in some dudgeon with unnamed critics, who apparently took issue with his philosophical hedonism:

Moderation in individual and social life of Razi
In a practical regard, I can say that with God’s help and support I have never gone beyond the upper and lower limits [of indulgence and self- denial] I have defined. No act of mine has ever reveled any but a philosophic way of life. I consorted with the ruler not as a man at arms or an officer of state but as physician and a friend, serving in illness to treat him and improve his body or in health as a companion and adviser. My sole- ambition, so help me, was his well- being and that of his subjects. No one has ever seen me avidly pursuing wealth or unfair. Everyone knows that I am just the opposite, even to the point of often neglecting my own rights [huquqi]

Razis great attempt at attaining knowledge
In food, drink and entertainment, those who have spent much time with me know that I am not prone to excess. The same is true in other respects, as those who know me can attest – whether in dress, riding animals, attendants and maids. But in love of learning and dedication to knowledge, those who have spent time with me and know me personally know that from my youth until today my commitment has been unabating. So much so, that I have never come across a book I had not read or a man I had not met without dropping everything –even at significant harm to my interests –and getting into that book or taking the measure of that man’s thinking. My perseverance and dedication reached such extremes that in a single year I wrote over twenty thousand pages in a hand like a amulet ,maker’s I have kept at work on my big compendium [the Jami] for fifteen years, night and day, until my eyes grew weak and my hand muscles deteriorated, so that now I can no longer read or write. But even so, I have not given up reading or writing in such fashion as I can. For I constantly employ someone to read and write for me. ( In Paul Kraus, Abi Mohammadi fili Zacharae Raghensis (Razis) opera philosophica fragmentaque quae supersunt (Cairo, 1939, Pars Prior, all that was published, repr. Beirut, 1973): 109-10.)

Razis generosity and dignity from his contemporaries point of view
A contemporary who did know al- Razi enlarges this self-portrait, describing him as an old man “with a large shaped like a sack”:

He used to sit in his reception room [majlis] with his students around him, surrounded by their students, and then still other students. A patient would enter and describe his symptoms to the one he first met. If they did not know what was wrong, he would progress to the next group. If they did not know, al- Razi himself would discuss the case. He was generous, dignified and honest with the people –so compassionate with the poor and sick that would supply ample food for them and provide them with nursing care….He was never to be seen not taking notes or transcribing information, and I never went in to see him without finding him writing out either a draft or a revision ….He went blind at the end of his life.(M. ibn al- Hasan al- Warraq, quoting an elderly contemporary who knew al- Razi, ap. Ibn al- Nadim. Fihrist, trans. Dodge: 701-2. Al- Razi’s blindness was apparently caused by a cataract, developed not long before his death. He refused surgery, saying that he had seen enough of the world.)

Razi and Galen
Al- Razi was enough of Galenist that he wrote a bibliography of works by Galen unlisted in Galen ‘s own catalogue or that of the great translator Hunayn ibn Ishaq. (See. L. E. Goodman, “The Translation of Greek Materials into Arbic,” Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: Religion, Learning and Science in the Abbasid Period (Cambridge, 1990): 487- 91) But his empiric bent made him chary of authority. His Doubts about Galen ( See S, Pines, “Razi Critique de Galien ,”Actes du Septieme Congres International d’ Histoire des Sciences (Jerusalem, 1953): 480-7) rejects Galen’s claims as to the superiority of the Greek language and criticizes many of his cosmological and medical views. It claims medicine for philosophy and argues that sound practice depends on independent thinking. Al- Razi’s own clinical records, he reports, diverged more often than confirmed Galen’s descriptions of the course of fever. One urinary disease, which Galen had seen only twice, perhaps because it was “rare in his country”, al- Razi had been seen over a hundred times. Beyond these matters of sheer experience, al-Razi rejects the notion central to the theory of hum ours, that the body is warmed or cooled only by warmer or cooler bodies, since a warm drink may heat the body to a degree much hotter than its own. Tugging at the edges of the classic tangle we now differentiate under the rubrics of physical and chemical change, he reasons that the drink must trigger a response rather than simply communicating warmth or coldness.


History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages: 198to202


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