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Philosophy of Medicine$
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Alex Broadbent

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190612139

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190612139.001.0001

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Medical Nihilism

Medical Nihilism

(p.157) Chapter 6 Medical Nihilism
Philosophy of Medicine

Alex Broadbent

Oxford University Press

One thread running through this book so far has been a concern that medicine is not all it is cracked up to be. This chapter considers the most dramatic version of this stance, namely Medical Nihilism. Nihilism is the view that its object is worthless, accompanied by an emotional reaction of despair. Medical Nihilism is this attitude toward medicine. It was a common stance in the 19th century because of the persistent elusiveness of cures. The chapter considers Wootton’s nihilism about historical Western medicine, but focuses on Stegenga’s recent arguments for low confidence in contemporary medicine. Stegenga’s arguments are ultimately rejected, but the larger lesson is Medical Nihilism relies heavily on the Curative Thesis. Even if Therapeutic Nihilism were warranted (which the chapter denies), this would not warrant Nihilism about the whole of medicine, if medicine is properly characterized by the Inquiry Thesis, as the earlier parts of the book contend.

Keywords:   Medical Nihilism, Wootton, Stegenga, Whiggish, Bayes Theorem

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