Toward a Skills-Based Philosophy of Medicine

Dissertation, Georgetown University (2002)

The concept of skill is a neglected resource in the philosophy of medicine. Despite its near ubiquitous presence in discussions of medicine , skill has traditionally been passed over as a conceptual tool by those with a philosophical interest in medicine . It is argued that the philosophy of medicine, including its more applied areas , could benefit from a more developed philosophical concept of skill. ;I begin with a preliminary investigation into the nature of the concept of skill. Taking Hubert Dreyfus's uses of skill as a point of departure, I tease apart two different senses of skill---an ontological sense and an epistemological sense. This is followed by a critique of current appeals to skill in one area of the philosophy of medicine . Skill is commonly used to explain three features of diagnostic expertise: its quantity, arationality, and immediacy. The appeals to skill---as a facility in dealing with contents of the mind, as an ability to make subconscious inference, or as a perceptual capacity for gaining foundationalist knowledge---are shown to be problematic. A cognitivist theory of the mind is suggested to be at the root of these appeals. An alternative framework for understanding skills and expertise is explored. Adapting Dreyfus's phenomenology of expertise to medicine, three classes of skills are identified and sketched: perceptual skill, preparative skill, and reparative skill. One of these skills is singled out for further development. It is argued that there is a tradition in philosophy that conceives of perception in skill-like terms and which finds medicine particularly useful for elucidating a notion of perceptual skill. Finally, the concept of skill under development is brought to a current debate within the philosophy of medicine: the internalist versus externalist debate. After reviewing some of the history of this debate, it is suggested that internalism could benefit from a more developed concept of skill
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,194
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Recognizing Tacit Knowledge in Medical Epistemology.Stephen G. Henry - 2006 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 27 (3):187--213.
Skills, Dementia, and Bridging Divides in Neuroscience.Eran P. Klein - 2009 - American Journal of Bioethics 9 (9):20-21.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Skill of Virtue.Matthew Stichter - 2007 - Philosophy in the Contemporary World 14 (2):39-49.
Virtues, Skills, and Right Action.Matt Stichter - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (1):73-86.
Cultivating Practical Wisdom.Jason Swartwood - 2013 - Dissertation, University of Minnesota
Virtue Epistemology and the Epistemology of Virtue.Paul Bloomfield - 2000 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (1):23-43.
Missed Signals in a Sensorimotor Skill.R. Conrad - 1954 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 48 (1):1.
Virtues as Skills in Virtue Epistemology.Matt Stichter - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Research 38:333-348.


Added to PP index

Total views

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes