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Moods and Humours
Thursday, October 08, 2009, 12:00pm - 07:00pm
We are emotional creatures, whose mood-swings are studied with increasing precision, and can be affected by an increasing number of drugs. The research and its applications partake of our unprecedented ability to study brain function and mental activity - perception, cognition and emotion. Information about our brains and minds is accumulating, but how far does it inform our self-understanding as conscious, emotional, moody creatures? To try and answer this, I look at the theory of the humours, which sustained medical practices and psychological theories in the West for close to 2500 years: it is an unusual step back into the history of beliefs, theories and practices that partook of a humanistic endeavour to comprehend the human mind, mood-swings included, in all its complexity. I ask whether our cognitive sciences, and the psycho-medical culture around them, are on a continuum with the past, and of what use this past can be to present practices.