Beyond Biomedicine: Developing New Models of Medical Practice from the Pragmatist and Existentialist Traditions



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This thesis seeks to address two distinct sets of criticisms that have been offered at medical practice. The first criticism suggests that medicine today is too exclusive in its application of the term 'disease.' As a consequence, important biological phenomena are marginalized by physicians and scientists. The second criticism suggests that medicine has been too inclusive in its understanding of disease. As a result, many biological phenomena that were once considered 'natural' or 'normal' aspects of human life are now given a medical dimension that they previously did not have.

The goal of this thesis is to understand why two seemingly contradictory criticisms have been applied to the same practice. To answer this question, I invoke Edmund Husserl's important analysis of modern science to argue that medicine suffers from a problem of 'naive objectivism.' This problem is present under the dominant paradigm of medical diagnosis, the biomedical model.

Having identified the source of these two criticisms, my goal is to then develop new models of medical practice that can address these criticisms. First, I turn to John Dewey's philosophical naturalism to develop a medical model that can address the problem of exclusion in biomedicine. Then, I turn to Martin Heidegger?s existential analytic to develop a medical model that can address the problem of inclusion in biomedicine. I supplement both of these analyses with research generated in the medical humanities fields, attempting to show how the biomedical model of medicine fails to meet the goals of medical care.

The end result of such analysis is the development of two new medical models that can serve to replace the biomedical model. I offer no attempt to adjudicate between these two models, instead leaving such issues to be handled by the patient and the physician throughout the course of his or her treatment.