Hume's influence on John Gregory and the history of medical ethics

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 24 (4):376 – 395 (1999)
Abstract
The concept of medicine as a profession in the English-language literature of medical ethics is of recent vintage, invented by the Scottish physician and medical ethicist, John Gregory (1724-1773). Gregory wrote the first secular, philosophical, clinical, and feminine medical ethics and bioethics in the English language and did so on the basis of Hume's principle of sympathy. This paper provides a brief account of Gregory's invention and the role that Humean sympathy plays in that invention, with reference to key texts in Gregory's work. The paper also considers two interesting and perhaps provocative ways in which Hume can be read through Gregory: first, sympathy as a principle of scientific discovery in Hume's science of man and moral physiology; and sympathy as gendered feminine in Hume's moral philosophy. Hume's principle of sympathy is at the core of Gregory's medical ethics and the histories of Western medical ethics and bioethics pivot on Gregory - and, therefore, on Hume - as it does on few other figures.
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