Medical humanities — arts and humanistic science

  • Rolf AhlzénEmail author
Scientific Contribution


The nature and scope of medical humanities are under debate. Some regard this field as consisting of those parts of the humanistic sciences that enhance our understanding of clinical practice and of medicine as historical phenomenon. In this article it is argued that aesthetic experience is as crucial to this project as are humanistic studies. To rightly understand what medicine is about we need to acknowledge the equal importance of two modes of understanding, intertwined and mutually reinforcing: the mode of aesthetic imagination and the mode of analytical reflection.


aesthetic experience imagination intertwining understanding 


  1. Academic Medicine, October 2003: ‘The Humanities and Medicine: Reports of 41 U.S., Canadian and International Programs’Google Scholar
  2. Berger, J.: (1967), A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor. New York: Pantheon BooksGoogle Scholar
  3. Cassell, E.: (1991), The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine. New York and Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  4. Elam, K.: (2001), Emotions as a Mode of Understanding. Uppsala: Uppsala University PressGoogle Scholar
  5. Evans, M.: (2001), The Medical Body as Philosophy’s Arena, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 22, 17–32CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Fox Keller, E.: (1983), The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock. New York: W.H. FreemanGoogle Scholar
  7. Greaves, D.: (2001), The Nature and Role of Medical Humanities in: M. Evans, I. Finlay (eds.), Medical Humanities. London: BMJ Books, pp. 13–22Google Scholar
  8. Gustafsson, L.: (1990), The Death of a Beekeeper. London: Collins HarvillGoogle Scholar
  9. Hoffmaster, B.: (1992), Can Ethnography Save the Life of Ethics?, Social Science and Medicine 35, 1421–1431CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Illich, I.: (1976), Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health. London: M. BoyarsGoogle Scholar
  11. Leder, D.: (1992), A Tale of Two Bodies: The Cartesian Corpse and the Lived Body, in: D. Leder (ed.), The Body in Medical Thought and Practice. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 17–35Google Scholar
  12. LeFanu, J.: (1999), The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine. London: Little BrownGoogle Scholar
  13. Nussbaum, M.: (1992), Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. New York and Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  14. Nussbaum, M.: (1995), Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life. Boston: Beacon PressGoogle Scholar
  15. Poggi, G.: (2006), Weber: A Short Introduction. Cambridge: PolityGoogle Scholar
  16. Ramsey, P.: (1970), The Patient as Person. New Haven: Yale University PressGoogle Scholar
  17. Sacks, O.: (1984), A Leg to Stand On. New York: Summit BooksGoogle Scholar
  18. Sontag, S.: (1979), Illness as Metaphor. London: Allen LaneGoogle Scholar
  19. Svenaeus, F.: 1999, The Hermeneutics of Medicine and the Phenomenology of Health: Steps towards a Philosophy of Medical Practice. Linköping: Linköping Studies in Arts and SciencesGoogle Scholar
  20. Toulmin, S.: (1993), Knowledge and Art in the Practice of Medicine: Clinical Judgment and Historical Reconstruction, in: C. Delkeskamp-Hayes, M.A. Gardell (eds.), Science, Technology and the Art of Medicine. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 231–249Google Scholar
  21. Vanhoozer, K.: (1998), Is There a Meaning in this Text? The Bible, the Reader and the Morality of Literary Knowledge. Grand Rapids, Michigan: ZondervanGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health and EnvironmentUniversity of KarlstadKarlstadSweden

Personalised recommendations