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06 OCTOBER 2013

Modern medicine evokes a Cartesian mind-body dualism

"If we look at the history of medicine, we can see that it became what it is today because of a sweeping social transformation that modernized Europe centuries ago. Urbanization and commerce, along with Protestantism and the Catholic Counter–Reformation, encouraged new ways of conceiving and interacting with nature. It was within this context that 'scientific medicine' was invented and elaborated. The particular scientific model that became predominant in Europe in the seventeenth century accepted the mind–body dualism of René Descartes, for whom the human body is a self–contained, entirely material machine. His contemporary, Baruch Spinoza, on the other hand, elaborated a more relational view, stemming from a Jewish tradition that regards the body as essential to a complex and ultimately spiritual being, and all beings as mutually dependent.

Spinoza's perspective is no less compatible with scientific medicine than the Cartesian view. For science has two complementary ways of explaining: by taking apart–as atomic physics mainly does–and by bringing into relation–as Einstein's relativity theory does. Spinoza was quite aware of the power of the first approach, as elaborated by Descartes and advanced by technologies such as the newly invented microscope. Spinoza acknowledges that the human body is composed of parts, and those parts of smaller parts still. But he recognizes also that bodies are encompassed by, and can be adequately understood only in relation to, unities larger than themselves, until we reach the widest system of all, which is 'the whole of nature.' Spinoza was an early exponent of what is known today as 'systems theory.'

Medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could have taken a more integrative path, in keeping with Spinoza's insight that we are guardians not only of our bodies, taken individually, but of the entire domain of nature with which they are continuous. Instead–for reasons that this essay will explore – mainstream medicine adopted the Cartesian machine model."

(Raymond Barglow, Tikkun Magazine, March 2002)

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16th century17th centuryAlbert Einstein • atomic physics • atomisticBaruch Spinozabodybringing into relation • Cartesian machine model • Cartesian view • Catholiccomplexitycomposed of partscontingencydualismhealth carehistory of medicinehuman bodyintegrative practices • Jewish tradition • Judaism • mainstream medicine • man and nature • material machine • medicinemicroscopemind-body dualismnatureProtestantismrelational aestheticsrelational viewRene Descartessciencescientific medicine • scientific model • self-contained • social transformation • spiritual being • systems theorytaking apart • theory of relativity • urbansation

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
17 AUGUST 2013

Movieclips channel: popular clips from famous movies

"The Movieclips channel is the destination for all your favorite moments from all your favorite movies. Our Movieclips genome team has gone through every movie individually, picking out the best moments, scenes, and clips from all your favorite movies. Whether it is action, comedy, drama, western, a classic, or any other genre, Movieclips has it with the unforgettable moments that stay with you long after you leave the theater. All in one place, easy to find, and easier to get hooked, the Movieclips database is the largest collection of movie clips on the web."

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
04 SEPTEMBER 2005

Self-Reflexivity: The Natural Sciences Versus The Human Sciences

"The natural sciences examine and explain phenomena which do not ascribe meanings or understandings to themselves; the natural sciences are not, and cannot be, self–reflexive; their success depends on their background practices remaining opaque to their practitioners, on their being taken for granted and ignored.[27] The human sciences, by contrast, attempt to understand phenomena which have self–referential and reflexive meanings and understandings; they are necessarily self–reflexive and concerned with their own background practices; and their success depends on their understanding and awareness of their background practices.[28] So whereas the interpretive practices of the scientist play no internal role in the formulation of theories or models in the natural sciences, those same interpretive practices play a major internal role in the human sciences. The human sciences have no reason to exist except to question the bases of human action, and this necessarily includes the self–reflexive study of the bases of their own modes of interpretation. The natural and the human sciences differ in the fact that background is external in the former and internal in the latter.[27] We follow Apel in excluding behaviourist psychology and statistical sociology from the human sciences as being wholly non–reflexive. They deal exclusively with humans as "things," and have a technological relation to practice. See Karl–Otto Apel, "The A Priori of Communication and the Foundation of the Humanities," in Dallmayr and McCarthy, op. cit., 292–315, p. 309.[28] Rorty denies this distinction, claiming that "anything is, for purposes of being inquired into, constituted within a web of meanings." In his view the meanings of actions and practices equate what their agents say about them. See Georgia Warnke, Gadamer, Hermeneutics, Tradition and Reason, London, Polity Press, 1987, pp. 141 ff."

(Adrian Snodgrass and Richard Coyne)

1). Snodgrass, A. and R. Coyne (1997). "Is Designing Hermeneutical", Architectural Theory Review Journal of The Department of Architecture Vol. 1 No. 1. Sydney, The University of Sydney, Department of Architecture: 72.

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