Medicine as a form of practical understanding

This paper is an attempt to reframe the debate of whether medicine is an art or a science in the Aristotelian sense. The recent book of Pellegrino and Thomasma, A Philosophical Basis of Medical Practice, serves as the starting point. Taking clinical interaction as the distinctive feature of medicine, the resemblances of medicine with the characteristics of practical reasoning in the Aristotelian sense are further explored. This comparison proves especially useful in discussing the special status of medical knowledge. Clinical reasoning, resulting in clinical judgments, shows strong similarities with practical reasoning. The application of general principles, instead of deduction from them as in science is essential to both. The ancient concept of practical rationality may therefore be more appropriate while trying to ascribe rationality to medicine than the modern concept of rationality, associated solely with scientific reasoning.
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