Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 39–52 | Cite as

The whole and the art of medical dialectic: a platonic account

  • Jan Helge SolbakkEmail author
Scientific Contribution


The aim of this paper is to investigate Plato’s conception of the whole in the Phaedrus and the theory of medical dialectic underlying this conception. Through this analysis Plato’s conception of kairos will also be adressed. It will be argued that the epistemological holism developed in the dialogue and the patient-typology emerging from it provides us with a way of perceiving individual situations of medical discourse and decision-making that makes it possible to bridge the gap between observations of a professional nature, i.e. of diagnostics and therapy—of whom to treat and in what magnitude—and individual patients’ perceptions of their situation. Besides, it will be argued that such a patient-typology represents a conceptual framework to assess and deal normatively with patients’ ailments and needs that is more robust than the current standards in use, i.e. the Subjective Standard, the Reasonable Person Standard and the Professional Practice Standard. Finally, it will be argued that the possession of kairos, which according to Plato is the hallmark of a true physician, represents a normative conception of time that today’s medicine is in need of revisiting.


Art (technêMedical dialectic Collection (synagôgêDivision (diairesisEnumeration (arithmesisKairos Method (methodosRhetoric The whole (to holonVirtue (aretê


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Medical Ethics, Institute of Health and Society, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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