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To Fix or to HealPatient Care, Public Health, and the Limits of Biomedicine$
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Joseph E. Davis and Ana Marta Gonzalez

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479878246

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479878246.001.0001

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Reductionist Medicine and Its Cultural Authority

Reductionist Medicine and Its Cultural Authority

(p.33) 1 Reductionist Medicine and Its Cultural Authority
To Fix or to Heal

Joseph E. Davis

NYU Press

This chapter considers why, despite important reasons to adopt more integrative approaches, medicine continue on a reductionist course. Davis frames a general explanation by considering the powerful appeal of two enduring legacies. First are the implications of seventeenth-century natural philosophy for the commitments of modern science and medicine. Second are the nineteenth-century changes that joined medicine with the physical and life sciences and gave birth to a particular constellation of ideal-types—the “biomedical model”—that have structured thinking about disease and treatment ever since. As Davis shows, the problem for integrative, holistic approaches arises from these two legacies together. As interwoven with central contemporary values, these legacies have given reductionist medicine a distinct cultural authority: the authority to “name the world.”

Keywords:   Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Thomas Sprat, technological utopianism, biomedical model, identity/self, reductionism, medicalization, suffering, History of the Royal Society

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