Practical Wisdom and Health Care

  • Barry SchwartzEmail author
  • Kenneth E. Sharpe


Healthcare in the developed world increasingly involves managing chronic conditions rather than curing acute ones. And managing chronic conditions typically requires that patients be partners rather than merely complaint executers of medical directives. To foster and sustain such partnerships, medical practitioners must possess not only technical competence, but moral competence. Medical education must be education in character—in virtue—and the cardinal virtue that must be educated is practical wisdom. We describe three institutional settings—inner-city health clinics, a program in medical education, and a program in a major medical center that provides palliative care—in which virtue education is taken as seriously as medical education, with good results for both the patients and the staff. Improving the health outcomes of an aging population will require that medical institutions commit themselves to allowing virtue to be nurtured and deployed.


Practical wisdom Aristotle Telos Medical care Moral will Moral skill 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA

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