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Dualism and Its Discontents I: Philosophy, Literature, and Medicine 

Dualism and Its Discontents I: Philosophy, Literature, and Medicine
Dualism and Its Discontents I: Philosophy, Literature, and Medicine

Craig Irvine

and Danielle Spencer

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date: 22 January 2022

Part I of II: Beginning with several literary and nonfiction patient accounts elaborating alienating healthcare experiences, this chapter offers a brief overview of 20th-century attitudes and movements informing medical pedagogy and practice in the U.S., citing such figures as Abraham Flexner, Francis Peabody, Eric Cassell and others. Seeking an understanding of the dissociative underpinnings of medical practice, the chapter turns to the Western philosophical lineage, with particular emphasis on mind–body dualism. Beginning with Plato, key passages in The Republic and The Symposium are examined, exploring Plato’s influential conception of the hierarchy between the physical and intelligible realms. Descartes’ Enlightenment philosophy and his approach to knowledge—with thought abstracted from the physical realm—is discussed in detail, alongside the connections between such thought and medical practice. The chapter closes with a question, to be addressed in Part II: Might philosophy offer more salutary approaches to understanding healthcare?

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