Passions and Tempers


Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours Paperback – 12 Nov 2008 by Noga Arikha (Author)

Physicians in ancient Greece believed four humours flowed within the human body—blood, phlegm, black bile, and choler—determining a person’s health, mood, and character. Not until the seventeenth century would a more complex view of the anatomy begin to emerge. But by then humoural theory had already become deeply ingrained in Western language and thought—and endures to this day in surprising ways.

Interweaving the histories of medicine, science, psychology, and philosophy, Passions and Tempers explores the uncanny persistence of these variable, invisible fluids. It will change how we view our physical, mental, and emotional selves.

Product details

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (12 Nov. 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0060731176

ISBN-13: 978-0060731175

Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm

Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 707,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)



“…this persistent [humoural] theory…has much to teach us…” (New York Sun)

“Passions and Tempers may excite the passions and tempers…as a good work of intellectual history should.” (Washington Post)

“…a stimulating work that shows the Western mind nobly grappling with the inscrutable nature of the human body.” (Publishers Weekly)

“To Arikha’s immense credit, she provides a thoroughly documented account…” (New York Times Book Review)

“…a fine job…” (New York Times Book Review)

“Fascinating…[Passions and Tempers] challenges us to consider the value, and the meaning, of a discredited theory.” (

About the Author

Noga Arikha was raised in Paris and received her doctorate in history at London’s Warburg Institute. She was a fellow at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University, and has taught at Bard College and the Bard Graduate Center. She lives in New York City.

 Ancient Good Humours for the Neo-Pagan Reader+ 27 May 2008

By Magickal Merlin – Published on

Format: Hardcover

I was surprised by this book on the ‘History of Bodily Humours’.At first,i thought it would be a boring history book by a christian scholar.But,the topic of how one’s body fluids influenced one’s behaviour,aroused my attention.Theories about humours have intrigued philosophers and doctors alike,since the dawn of humankind.The affects and effects,of humours, on civilizations are profound.Leaders and rulers,throughout history,were at the mercy of superstitous medics.With the spread of travel and communication, isolated biases began to erode,among learned scientists.This book is open-minded about ‘paganism’.Christianity stymied creative scientific opinions and research was cloaked by the pseudo-science of alchemy.Noga Arikha writes a compelling book about the impact the body’s humours have had on political and scientific thinking,from the ancients til today.

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