The body of western embodiment: Classical antiquity and the early history of a problem

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Much of western philosophy, especially ancient Greek philosophy, addresses the problems posed by embodiment. This chapter argues that to grasp the early history of embodiment is to see the category of the body itself as historically emergent. Bruno Snell argued that Homer lacked a concept of the body (soma), but it is the emergence of body in the fifth century BCE rather than the appearance of mind or soul that is most consequential for the shape of ancient dualisms. The body takes shape in Hippocratic medical writing as largely hidden and unconscious interior space governed by impersonal forces. But Plato's corpus demonstrates that while Plato's reputation as a somatophobe is well grounded and may arise in part from the way the body takes shape in medical and other physiological writing, the Dialogues represent a more complex position on the relationship between body and soul than Plato's reputation suggests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEmbodiment
Subtitle of host publicationA History
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9780190490447
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Body
  • Greek philosophy
  • Hippocrates
  • Homer
  • Plato
  • Soma
  • Soul
  • The Dialogues
  • The unconscious


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