Medicine and the Humanities - Theoretical and Methodological Issues
Medical Humanities 2003 December; 29(2): 77-80
Engel's biopsychosocial mode, Cassell's promotion of the concept "person" in medical thinking and Pellegrino's and Thomasma's philosophy of medicine are attempts to widen current biomedical theory of disease and to approach medicine as a form of human activity in pursuit of healing. To develop this approach further we would like to propose activity theory as a possible means for understanding the nature of medical practice. By "activity theory" we refer to developments which have evolved from Vygotsky's research on socially mediated mental functions and processes. Analysing medicine as activity enforces the joint consideration of target and subject: who is doing what to whom. This requires the use of historical, linguistic, anthropological, and semiotic tools. Therefore, if we analyse medicine as an activity, humanities are both theoretically and methodologically "inbound" (in internal) to the analysis itself. On the other hand, literature studies or anthropological writings provide material for analysing the various forms of medical practices.
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