Toward a systematic philosophy of medicine

Can Pellegrino and Thomasma's book, A Philosophical Basis of Medical Practice (1981), rightfully claim to be a step forward towards a systematic philosophy of medicine? We try to answer this question by focusing our comment upon three related aspects of the book, namely (1) the problem of philosophical method(s), (2) the alleged Aristotelian-Thomistic orientation, (3) the view of philosophical anthropology of the authors. It is first argued that it is doubtful whether there is as much philosophical method in the authors' book as their reflections on philosophical method suggest. Second, we argue that if Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy is important to the authors, it is not so much because of its methods and content, as because it supplies them with a very convenient framework for didactically ordering and transmitting their views about what they consider to be — philosophically speaking — basic about medicine. Third we argue that the authors' conception of philosophical anthropology bears (in point of method and ontology) more resemblance to the humanistic naturalism of John Dewey, than to any of the European philosophical traditions (Aristotelism, (Neo)Thomism, Merleau-Pontyian phenomenology) listed in support of their philosophical enterprise.
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