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J Med Philos. 1987 Aug;12(3):219-40.

The meaning of illness: a phenomenological approach to the patient-physician relationship.

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Department of Philosophy, Rice University, Houston, TX 77030.


This essay argues that philosophical phenomenology can provide important insights into the patient-physician relationship. In particular, it is noted that the physician and patient encounter the experience of illness from within the context of different "worlds", each "world" providing a horizon of meaning. Such phenomenological notions as focusing, habits of mind, finite provinces of meaning, and relevance are shown to be central to the way these "worlds" are constituted. An eidetic interpretation of illness is proposed. Such an interpretation discloses certain essential characteristics that pertain to the experience of illness, per se, regardless of its manifestation in terms of a particular disease state. It is suggested that, if a shared world of meaning is to be constituted between physician and patient, the eidetic characteristics of illness must be recognized by the physician.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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