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October 2021

Hermeneutics of clinical practice: The question of textuality

Journal/Book: Theor Med Bioeth. 2000; 21: Spuiboulevard 50, PO Box 17, 3300 AA Dordrecht, Netherlands. Kluwer Academic Publ. 171-189.

Abstract: In this article I scrutinize the question whether clinical medicine, in order to be considered a hermeneutical enterprise, must be thought of as a reading of different ''texts.'' Three different proposals for a definition of the concept of text in medicine, suggested by other hermeneuticians, are discussed. All three proposals are shown to be unsatisfying in various ways. Instead of attempting to find a fourth definition of the concept of text suitable to a hermeneutics of medicine, I then try to show that the assumption that one needs to operate with the concept of text in order to develop a hermeneutics of medicine is false. Clinical interpretation can be shown to essentially consist in a dialogical hermeneutics, the pattern of which can be found in the philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer. This kind of hermeneutics is not a methodology of text reading, but an ontological, phenomenological hermeneutics in which understanding is a necessary feature of the being-together of human beings in the world. This being-together in and through language takes on a peculiar form in the clinical encounter, since the medical meeting is typically characterized by an asymmetrical enstrangement and has a specific goal - health for the patient - absent in other forms of hermeneutics. Central issues of Gadamer's philosophy, e.g. ''fusion of horizons,'' are shown to fit the structure of clinical practice.

Note: Article Svenaeus F, Linkoping Univ, Dept Hlth & Soc, S-58183 Linkoping, SWEDEN

Keyword(s): dialogue; Gadamer; hermeneutics of medicine; clinical interpretation; philosophy of medical practice; Ricoeur; textuality; MEDICAL HERMENEUTICS


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