Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours

One of the Washington Post´s best non-fiction books of 2007

A New York Times Book Review Editor´s Choice

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cover Gli Umori

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The humours - blood, phlegm, black bile, and choler - were substances thought to flow within the body and determine a person´s health, mood, and character. For example, an excess of black bile was considered a cause of melancholy. Humours remained an inexact but powerful explanation for centuries, surviving scientific changes, and offering clarity to physicians.

This one-of-a-kind book follows the fate of these variable fluids from their Western origin in ancient Greece to their present day versions, tracing their persistence through medical guidebooks of the past to current health fads, from the testimonies of medical theories to the theories of scientists, physicians, and philosophers. By intertwining the histories of medicine, science, psychology, and philosophy, Noga Arikha revisits and revises how we think about all aspects of our physical, mental, and emotional selves. (From front flap.)

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Passions and Tempers

Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours

A 2500-year journey that explores the origins of humours in ancient Greece through the present day. Published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Read more.



Articles and Essays

Thoughts Made Visible

Written for issue on "States of Mind" of Lapham´s Quarterly


Lectures and Academic

Materialism: A Historico-Philosophical Introduction

Review of book by Charles Wolfe.


Chronological Archive