Epilogism, also known as epilogismos, is a style of inference used by the ancient Empiric school of medicine and Pyrrhonism. It is a theory-free method that looks at history through the accumulation of facts without major generalization and with consideration of the consequences of making causal claims.[1] Epilogism is an inference which moves entirely within the domain of visible and evident things, it tries not to invoke unobservables.


There are conflicting accounts as to who introduced epilogism. It has been, for instance, attributed to the Pyrrhonist philosopher Menodotus of Nicomedia as well as to Heracleides of Tarentum, who was an Epicurean.[2] Menodotus' use of this notion was included in the extant Latin version of Galen's Subfiguratio empirica, where it was described as the third method in addition to perception and recollection.[3]

It is also said that the empirics devised epilogism to distinguish their kind of reasoning from the type used by the rationalists, which required an understanding of the underlying nature of things, including the link between consequence and exclusion drawn between states of affairs.[4] Some also consider epilogism as the most extreme form of reasoning acceptable to the empirics.[5]

For the empirics, epilogism was reasoning that focused on a temporarily hidden subject.[6] It was employed as a method to uncover the provisionally hidden subjects, which are not entirely inaccessible to experience.[7] It covered the ground addressed by the commemorative sign and featured the ordinary reasoning common to all human beings.[4] It also had an exclusive focus on the phenomena[4] and simply reported (without endorsing) the practice of the empirical doctor.[8] As a medical method, it was used to infer the existence of something that is temporarily unclear, but in principle observable.[9]

Galen said, “what is known as epilogismos is the conclusion pointing to the visible things, and what is called analogismos is the conclusion pointing to invisible things.”[10]

In medical instruction, empirics use epilogism as one of the three sources or tripod of empiric medicine, along with personal observation and the study of observations collected by others.[11] In this case, the term, which is also called analogism, pertains to the induction that is derived from two former sources.

Cultural depictionsEdit

Epilogism is discussed as a way of viewing history in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Fragility". New York: Random House Publishing Group. pp. 199, 302, 383. ISBN 9780812973815.
  2. ^ Keyser, Paul Turquand; Scarborough, John (2018). The Oxford Handbook of Science and Medicine in the Classical World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 378. ISBN 978-0-19-973414-6.
  3. ^ Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2016). Incerto 4-Book Bundle: Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, Antifragile. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8129-9769-9.
  4. ^ a b c Allen, James; Allen, James V.; Allen, James P. (2001). Inference from Signs: Ancient Debates about the Nature of Evidence. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0-19-825094-0.
  5. ^ Gill, Mary Louise; Pellegrin, Pierre (2009). A Companion to Ancient Philosophy. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. p. 674. ISBN 978-1-4051-8834-0.
  6. ^ Gaille, Marie (2018). Machiavelli on Freedom and Civil Conflict: An Historical and Medical Approach to Political Thinking. Leiden: BRILL. p. 88. ISBN 978-90-04-32323-0.
  7. ^ Gill, Mary Louise; Pellegrin, Pierre (2009). A Companion to Ancient Philosophy. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons. p. 674. ISBN 978-0-631-21061-0.
  8. ^ Bates, Don (1995). Knowledge and the Scholarly Medical Traditions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 78. ISBN 052148071X.
  9. ^ Brittain, Charles; Brittain, Assistant Professor Program in Ancient Philosophy Charles (2001). Philo of Larissa: The Last of the Academic Sceptics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-19-815298-9.
  10. ^ Galen, On Medical Experience, 24
  11. ^ The Medico-chirurgical Review, Volume 50. S. Highley. 1847. p. 306.

External linksEdit