Phronesis as an ideal in professional medical ethics: some preliminary positionings and problematics
- 895 Downloads
Phronesis has become a buzzword in contemporary medical ethics. Yet, the use of this single term conceals a number of significant conceptual controversies based on divergent philosophical assumptions. This paper explores three of them: on phronesis as universalist or relativist, generalist or particularist, and natural/painless or painful/ambivalent. It also reveals tensions between Alasdair MacIntyre’s take on phronesis, typically drawn upon in professional ethics discourses, and Aristotle’s original concept. The paper offers these four binaries as a possible analytical framework for classifying and evaluating accounts of phronesis in the medical ethics literature. It argues that to make sense of phronesis as a putative ideal in professional medical ethics—for example, with the further aim of crafting interventions to cultivate phronesis in medical ethics education—the preliminary question of which conception of phronesis is most serviceable for the aim in question needs to be answered. The paper identifies considerable lack of clarity in the current discursive field on phronesis and suggests how that shortcoming can be ameliorated.
KeywordsPhronesis Medical ethics Aristotle MacIntyre Medical ethics education
I am grateful to Professor Christian Miller and reviewers of the present journal for comments on an earlier draft.
- 3.Schwartz, B., and K.E. Sharpe. 2010. Practical wisdom: The right way to do the right thing. New York: Riverhead Books.Google Scholar
- 4.Bondi, L., D. Carr, C. Clark, and C. Clegg (eds.). 2011. Towards professional wisdom: Practical deliberation in the people professions. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
- 6.Evans, A. 2014. The good lawyer: A student guide to law and ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- 8.Banks, S. 2006. Ethics and values in social work. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- 9.Dunne, J. 1993. Back to the rough ground: ‘Phronesis’ and ‘techné’ in modern philosophy and in Aristotle. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
- 10.Pellegrino, E., and D. Thomasma. 1993. The virtues in clinical practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- 11.MacIntyre, A. 1981. After virtue. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
- 13.Arthur, J., K. Kristjánsson, H. Thomas, B. Kotzee, A.M. Ignatowicz, and T. Qiu. 2015. Virtuous medical practice. Birmingham: Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. http://www.jubileecentre.ac.uk/userfiles/jubileecentre/pdf/Research%20Reports/Virtuous_Medical_Practice.pdf. Accessed March 30, 2015.
- 14.Kristjánsson, K. 2007. Aristotle, emotions and education. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
- 15.Broadie, S. 1991. Ethics with Aristotle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- 16.Kristjánsson, K. 2015. Aristotelian character education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- 17.Aristotle. 1985. Nicomachean ethics. Trans. T. Irwin. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
- 19.Winch, P. 1958. The idea of social science and its relation to philosophy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- 21.Flyvbjerg, B., T. Landman, and S. Schram (eds.). 2012. Real social science: Applied phronesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- 23.Montgomery, K. 2006. How doctors think: Clinical judgment and the practice of medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- 29.Peterson, C., and M.E.P. Seligman. 2004. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- 35.Glück, J., S. König, K. Naschenweng, et al. 2013. How to measure wisdom: Content, reliability, and validity of five measures. Frontiers in Psychology 4(405): 1–13.Google Scholar
- 36.Carr, D. 2015. Educating for the wisdom of moral virtue. http://www.jubileecentre.ac.uk/userfiles/jubileecentre/pdf/conference-papers/Varieties_of_Virtue_Ethics/Carr_David.pdf. Accessed March 30, 2015.
- 37.Nussbaum, M.C. 1988. Nature, function, and capability. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 1(1): 145–184.Google Scholar
- 39.Nussbaum, M.C. 1990. Aristotelian social democracy. In Liberalism and the good, ed. R.B. Douglass, G.M. Mara, and H.S. Richardson, 203–252. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- 43.Swartwood, J.D. 2013. Cultivating practical wisdom. PhD dissertation, University of Minnesota. http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/154543/1/Swartwood_umn_0130E_13707.pdf. Accessed March 30, 2015.
- 46.Hursthouse, R. 1999. On virtue ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar