Virtue and Truth in Clinical Science
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 1995 Jun; 20(3): 285-298.
Since the time of Hippocrates, medical science sought to develop a practice based on "knowledge rather than opinion". However, in the light of recent alternative approaches to healing and a philosophy of science that, through thinkers like Kuhn, Rorty, and Foucault, is critical of claims to objective truth, we must reappraise the way in which medical interventions can be based on proven pathophysiological knowledge rather than opinion. Developing insights in Foucault, Lacan, and Wittgenstein, this essay argues for a recovery of the Aristotelian idea of a techne, where there is a dynamic interplay between praxis and conceptualization. The result is a post-Kuhnian epistemology for medical science that recognizes the evaluative dimension of knowledge, but that also looks to a Platonic conception of the good as the ultimate constraint on human thought, thus avoiding the radically self-contained accounts of truth found in some post-modern thinkers.
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