Kazem Sadegh-Zadeh     Philosophy of Medicine     HAPM



Philosophy of Medicine

Methods of Inquiry

It was already stated elsewhere that one can do philosophy of medicine in any style one likes. The laissez-faire whateverism and the methodological anarchy resulting therefrom characterize the philosophy of medicine as it has been conducted since its emergence in the first half of the twentieth century. If we want our medical philosophizing to be useful, however, we must follow a reliable and instrumental method, i.e., a method that yields reliable results which are instrumental in medicine, philosophy, or other disciplines. It does not make sense to park oneself in front of the computer, to choose a topic, and to key in at one’s own sweet will. Philosophy of medicine should not be mistaken for belles lettres. Several decades ago I launched, full of ideas and hopes, an international journal for philosophy of medicine whose editorship I abandoned after a couple of years because most of the incoming papers seemed to have been produced that way. I don’t have the impression that the situation has changed since then.

After all, it should be possible to develop a scientific method of philosophical inquiry in medicine.

Are you concerned with a problem that relates to medical language, there is a well-developed science called linguistics which certainly will be of assistance to you if you do not ignore its achievements. Are you concerned with an issue whose treatment requires a term to be defined, you must know what a definition is, how many different methods of definition exist, which one of them is the suitable one in the present case, and how to conduct it. Are you concerned with a medical theory which you maintain to be inconsistent, you must explicitly present the theory and show logically its inconsistency. Are you concerned with an ontological problem of medicine such as, for example, whether mental diseases really exist or are mere myths, you must know what you understand by the term "mental disease", what ontology is, and how existence claims are proved, disproved, verified, or falsified. And so on.

We do a disservice to the philosophy of medicine when we do not strive for reliable and instrumental methods of medical philosophizing.