Theorica et Practica: Historical Epistemology and the Re-Visioning of Thirteenth and Fourteenth-Century Medicine

Brenda S. Gardenour



Positivist medical historians, guided by the savoir of modern western biomedicine, have long depicted medieval medicine as an aberration along the continuum of scientific and medical progress. Historical epistemology, founded in the ideas of Cavailles, Foucault, Davidson, and Hacking, however, allows the historian to disrupt this false continuum and to unchain medieval medicine from modern medicine. Postmodernist approaches, such as those sourced in Lyotard, Barthes, and Derrida, allow the historian to further deconstruct medieval and modern medical discourse, revealing a multitude of narrative lenses spinning around biomedical and biocultural strands. In liberating these two medical systems and setting them within the distinct historical and epistemological contexts that both shaped and were shaped by them, the historian can revision the theories, practices, and culture of medieval medicine without having to anachronistically justify them according to modern medical discourse.


Foucault; medieval medicine; savoir; narrative; Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM)

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TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: /// email: