Limits to Doubt
Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 2005; 26(5): 379-395
Supported by Ian Hacking's concept of "intervention," and Charles Taylor's concept of "intentionality," this article argues that doubting is acting, and that doubting is therefore subject to the same demands of responsibility as any other action. The argument is developed by using medical practice as a test-case. The central suggestion is that the demand of acting responsibly limits doubt in medicine. The article focuses on two such limitations to doubt. Firstly, the article argues that it is irresponsible to doubt that our actions can harm other people. Secondly, the article argues that it is irresponsible not to strive for coherence between our utterances of doubt and our other actions. Incoherence here can cause "cultural impoverishment." In a larger context this article also argues that medicine can enrich our epistemology, because medical knowledge displays important traits of knowledge that are downplayed in traditional epistemology derived from mathematics and physics. In particular, medicine makes it possible to get the relation between ethics and epistemology into sharper focus. The endpoint in medical epistemology is "responsible action," and not certainty in and of itself.
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