Hermeneutics of clinical practice: The question of textuality [Book Review]

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 21 (2):171-189 (2000)
Abstract
In this article I scrutinize the question whetherclinical medicine, in order to be considered ahermeneutical enterprise, must be thought of as areading of different texts. Three differentproposals for a definition of the concept of text inmedicine, suggested by other hermeneuticians, arediscussed. All three proposals are shown to beunsatisfying in various ways. Instead of attempting tofind a fourth definition of the concept of textsuitable to a hermeneutics of medicine, I then try toshow that the assumption that one needs to operatewith the concept of text in order to develop ahermeneutics of medicine is false. Clinicalinterpretation can be shown to essentially consist ina dialogical hermeneutics, the pattern of which can befound in the philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Thiskind of hermeneutics is not a methodology of textreading, but an ontological, phenomenologicalhermeneutics in which understanding is a necessaryfeature of the being-together of human beings in theworld. This being-together in and through languagetakes on a peculiar form in the clinical encounter,since the medical meeting is typically characterizedby an asymmetrical enstrangement and has a specificgoal – health for the patient – absent in other formsof hermeneutics. Central issues of Gadamer''sphilosophy, e.g. fusion of horizons, are shown tofit the structure of clinical practice.
Keywords dialogue  Gadamer  hermeneutics of medicine  clinical interpretation  philosophy of medical practice  Ricoeur  textuality
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