Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 473–481 | Cite as

Re-enchanting the body: overcoming the melancholy of anatomy

  • Joel James ShumanEmail author


I argue here that Weberian disenchantment is manifest in the triumph of instrumental reason and the expansion of analytic enquiry, which now dominates not simply those sciences upon which medicine depends, but medical practice itself. I suggest ways that analytic enquiry, also referred to here as anatomical reasoning, are part of a particular ideology—a way of seeing, speaking about, and inhabiting the world—that often fails to serve the health of patients because it is incapable of “seeing” them in the moral sense described by Iris Murdoch and others. I use the work of James Elkins and Wendell Berry to call for the recovery of a way of seeing the human body as both other and more than an object of scientific enquiry and social control.


Disenchantment Instrumental reason Anatomy Analytic enquiry Seeing Bodies Wholeness 



I am indebted to Stanley Hauerwas, Brian Volck, and my colleague Dr. James Wallace, all of whom read earlier drafts of this essay and offered helpful comments. Ashley Moyse and Matthew Vest were very helpful in helping me revise the essay to address the specific concerns of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics. Finally, I am grateful to the audience to whom the essay was first read at the 2017 Conference in Medicine and Religion in Houston, Texas. Their questions and gentle criticisms helped strengthen the argument of subsequent revisions.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor of TheologyKing’s CollegeWilkes-BarreUSA

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