40th Meeting of the Ancient Medicine Interdisciplinary Working Group

The Concept of "Future" in Ancient Medicine


on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the international and interdisciplinary Working Group 

„Ancient Medicine“

NEW DATE: Friday and Saturday, 18-19 June 2021

Place: Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Organizer: Norbert W. Paul, Tanja Pommerening


Perspective of the future plays an essential role from early healing practice to the modern. It is precisely through the practice of prognosis that the future enters medicine as an epistemologically and practically uncertain dimension. Divinatory texts in the Near East, oracle texts in Greco-Roman Antiquity, prognoses in Egyptian medicine, Hippocratic treatises on prognosis, or the writings of Galen, offer a multitude of ways for explaining illness, healing and death that are oriented towards the future. Movements of demarcation, that separated medical prognosis from divination, are found for example in the Corpus Hippocraticum and in the writings of Galen. In all cases, it becomes clear that a supposedly safe practice of medicine and healing is initially based primarily on the past, on experience, empiricism, and evidence and places these in relation to the present within the context of the diagnosis. The exact recognition of what is the case and medical problem solving, acting and justifying are always dependent on the reinsurance of the past.

Deeply rooted in the healing and medicine of the present, is the practice in the past. Equally, it is directed towards the future; in the narrower sense towards future health and participation, up to and including global health. While empirical knowledge and diagnostics justify medical decisions and actions, prognosis and prevention dictate the goals for the future in the sense of preventing the worst.

It is in this historically, historic-epistemologically and medical-theoretically rich context that the 40th conference of the Ancient Medicine Interdisciplinary Working Group, which is jointly supported by the DFG Research Training Groups "Early Concepts of Humans and Nature: Universal, Specific, Interchanged" and "Life Sciences - Life Writing: Experiences at the Boundaries of Human Life between Biomedical Explanation and Lived Experience", will take place. Which individual levels of action of practitioners and patients are oriented towards the future? What overarching ideas about the shaped future can be discerned from historical sources? What allusions can be found in texts from the Near East, Egypt, in Plato’s Politeia, in the Greek-Roman and Arabic works of medicine, or the relevant works of the Renaissance, such as Morus, Bacon, Campanella – or even concepts of the more recent and most recent history of medicine that refer to long lines of tradition? With such and other perspectives, temporality in medicine and healing arts is to be made the subject of interdisciplinary exchange.