Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Reflections on the History of Consciousness

Originally posted on April 26, 2016

I’m sensing that we live in a time when changes are speeding up in so many ways. One “window” on change that I’m closer to is the history of medicine. Another “window” is the history of science. I was reading an interesting book that noted a literal shift in world-views, from a geocentric to a heliocetric cosmos. This story of the paradigm shifting new theories—well, back then they were new—by Tycho Brahe, Nicolas Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo Galilei, are fascinating. (Pages 39-41, The Laws of Medicine, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. (New York: Simon & Schuster / TED books. 2015)

Galileo dared to propose that God’s Earth (and by implication, humanity) was not the center of the universe, against established Church doctrine. Oddly, I think that the Roman Catholic Church has found it politic to simply change its mind, while yet not feeling in the least obligated to relinquish claims to ultimate Truth. Other dogmatic religions similarly simply shift positions without feeling obligated to question their assumptions, and certainly this is true of politicians present and past.

Anyway, I’ve found the history of medicine to function as an historical “window” not just to the field of medicine itself but broader, the history of consciousness. In spite of the fact that we know far more than we knew five hundred years ago, that hardly makes a dent in what there is to know. Many people harbor foolish ideas, and what some people think of as foolish may well be more true than what makes perfect sense to those people. Thus world-views shift, and they are shifting even now.

By the way, I gave a class on the history of medicine a few years ago, and I used pictures based on what I obtained thirty or more years ago from some source. Burroughs-Wellcome Pharmacy detail men were giving them out. Now they’re posted on the internet at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *