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Chinese medicine: a cognitive and epistemological review*.

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Medicus Research LLC, Northridge, CA and Southern California University of Health Sciences, Whittier, CA, USA.


In spite of the common belief that Chinese natural philosophy and medicine have a unique frame of reference completely foreign to the West, this article argues that they in fact have significant cognitive and epistemic similarities with certain esoteric health beliefs of pre-Christian Europe. From the standpoint of Cognitive Science, Chinese Medicine appears as a proto-scientific system of health observances and practices based on a symptomological classification of disease using two elementary dynamical-processes pattern categorization schemas: a hierarchical and combinatorial inhibiting-activating model (Yin-Yang), and a non-hierarchical and associative five-parameter semantic network (5-Elements/Agents). The concept-map of the five-parameter model amounts to a pentagram, a commonly found geomantic and spell casting sigil in a number of pre-Christian health and safety beliefs in Europe, to include the Pythagorean cult of Hygieia, and the Old Religion of Northern Europe. This non-hierarchical pattern-recognition archetype/prototype was hypothetically added to the pre-existing hierarchical one to form a hybrid nosology that can accommodate for a change in disease perceptions. The selection of five parameters rather than another number might be due to a numerological association between the integer five, the golden ratio, the geometry of the pentagram and the belief in health and wholeness arising from cosmic or divine harmony. In any case, this body of purely empirical knowledge is nowadays widely flourishing in the US and in Europe as an alternative to Western Medicine and with the claim of being a unique, independent and comprehensive medical system, when in reality it is structurally-and perhaps historically-related to the health and safety beliefs of pre-Christian Europe; and without the prospect for an epistemological rupture, it will remain built upon rudimentary cognitive modalities, ancient metaphysics, and a symptomological view of disease.


5-elements theory; empirical medicine; proto-science; sacred geometry; semantic networks; traditional chinese medicine

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