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Medical Ethics: From Antiquity to the Current Pandemic
April 28 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
One of the effects of the current pandemic was to remind us how much of public health relies on difficult political and ethical decisions. When it comes to deciding the desirability of lockdowns, mass vaccinations, or who should get priority access to health care in emergency situations, medical expertise cannot, in itself, provide the answers. What are the main ethical dilemmas faced by the medical profession today? And how do advances in technology affect the ethics of medical care? We will examine these questions with the help of specialists in the field of medicine and bioethics, as well as with an engagement with the Hippocratic corpus, one of the central, and most influential collection of works in the history of medicine, written at a time when medical and ethical questions were seen as intrinsically intertwined.
About Our Speakers:
Dr. Natalia Linos
Dr. Natalia Linos is a social epidemiologist and the Executive Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard. She has over 15 years of experience working at the global and local levels on some of the most pressing public health challenges of our time: from climate change to systemic racism.
Since 2019, she has helped build a new research area for the FXB Center focused on racial justice. Along with Dr. Bassett, she co-leads the two largest programs in this area, namely to create an actionable field of scholarship on structural racism and health and make the public health case for reparations. These efforts build on their work together, including at the New York City Health Department and research on the social, legal and political determinants of health.
Prior to her role at Harvard, Natalia worked at the United Nations for over a decade in diverse roles. From 2016 to 2019, she led UNDP’s work at the nexus of health, climate change and the environment, and briefly served as interim Chief of Staff for the Bureau for Programme and Policy Support. From 2007 to 2014, she served as a policy specialist in Beirut, Lebanon, and later as an adviser and speech writer to former UNDP Administrator and Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, while also completing her doctoral studies.
Natalia has a strong commitment to public service and bringing public health expertise into political decision-making. In 2020 and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Natalia ran for Congress to represent Massachusetts’ fourth Congressional district. She is currently a Town Meeting Member in Brookline and is a member of Brookline’s Advisory Council on Public Health. She also serves on the Board of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
Natalia is a three-time Harvard University graduate, earning her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, Master of Science in Social Epidemiology, and Doctor of Science in Social Epidemiology here. She also holds a Certificate in Forced Migration from Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre. She speaks Greek fluently and has basic conversational skills in Arabic, Spanish and French. Natalia has three young children.
Dr. Nicolas Prevelakis
Nicolas Prevelakis is the Assistant Director of Curricular Development at the Center for Hellenic Studies and an Associate Senior Lecturer on Social Studies. He has a first Ph.D. in Moral and Political Philosophy from the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris 4) and a second one in Political Sociology from Boston University. He is interested in the history of political philosophy, religion and politics, globalization, and the European Union. He has published articles and encyclopedia pieces on secularization theory, nationalism and ethnicity, Islam in contemporary Europe, modern Greek nationalism, and the conception of the self in Eastern Christianity. He is currently involved in a collaborative book project on the historical connection between nationalism and secularization throughout the world.
Dr. Mark Schiefsky
First and foremost, I am a historian of philosophy and science in the ancient world. Most of my work is concerned with the ways in which philosophy interacted with science in Greco-Roman antiquity: how philosophical theories shaped and were shaped by scientific inquiry in various domains, including medicine, mechanics, mathematics, and astronomy. My 2005 book studies these themes in the case of one of the most important and influential texts of the Hippocratic Corpus, On Ancient Medicine. This book also reflects my longstanding interest in the concept of techne, “art” or “expertise”, which informs and motivates much of my work on philosophical and scientific texts. I am interested both in what philosophers like Plato and Aristotle said techne is and in what practitioners of the various disciplines took it to be.
In recent years I have been working on the reception of ancient Greek philosophy and science, particularly in the Arabic-speaking world but also in the Renaissance. Ancient treatises on mechanics were the subject of extensive commentaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth century CE, which can shed significant light on their interpretation (see my paper “Art and Nature in Ancient Mechanics”). Similarly, the Graeco-Arabic translation movement of the eighth to tenth centuries CE, as well as being crucial for the transmission of ancient Greek texts, is a highly significant phase in the reception of Greek culture that can reveal a great deal about the meaning of a text such as Aristotle’s Poetics.
A third area in which I work is digital humanities, where I have focused both on creating structured digital corpora and on developing software to apply techniques from natural language processing to the study of texts in a variety of languages. I pursued these efforts in the context of two major sponsored research projects: the Archimedes Project from 2001-4, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and concerned with the history of mechanics; and a separate project funded by the Mellon Foundation in 2010-13, which resulted in the creation of a digital corpus of Greek and Arabic texts connected with the translation movement. In the course of these projects, and with the collaboration of many others at various institutions, I contributed to the creation of Arboreal, a software application that enables the extraction and visualization of semantic networks from textual corpora in a variety of languages (see my 2015 paper “Beyond Archimedes”). I continue to work on extending and developing these resources, with the aim of creating a rigorous, multilingual approach to studying conceptual developments in the history of science and philosophy.