Mario Augusto Bunge, Argentine philosopher and physicist, published his new book “Medical Philosophy: Conceptual Issues in Medicine” in July 2013. I had the opportunity to read and work through a number of interesting chapters of this book in advance. Based on this insight, I would like to give interested readers the opportunity to get an impression of this new publication in advance:
Overview of Bunge's “Medical Philosophy”
Bunge's book is probably the first medical-philosophical work that systematically analyzes and discusses the basic concepts of medicine.
Bunge's examination is not limited to the individual aspects that are otherwise customary in the literature - that is, not to topics such as the discussion of the term disease or the method analysis of the conduct of clinical studies. Instead, in his new work, he examines all important aspects of biomedical research and practice:
- the nature of the disease
- the logic of diagnosis
- the discovery and development of medicines
- the design of research laboratories and the standards of clinical trials
- the design of therapeutic interventions
- the documentation of treatments and their results
- the moral rights and obligations of doctors and patients
- the criteria of scientific medicine on the one hand and the characteristics of medical “quackery” on the other
- the essential interplay of basic research and applied research for medical progress
- the social position of doctors and nursing staff
- the task of medical sociology
- and the need for universal medical care for the population
The structure of the book follows this structure:
1. Traditional medicine
2. Modern medicine
6. Trial procedure
9. Medical ethics
10. Science, technology or craft?
- List of abbreviations
With his book, Bunge particularly addresses healthcare workers, consultants working in this environment, medical sociologists, people with general medical interests and philosophers, whom he would like to give exciting new perspectives for their work and research, for example.
Basic information about the author
Professor Mario Bunge was born in Buenos Aires in 1919. He did his doctorate in physics at the University of La Plata (Universidad Nacional de La Plata), Argentina, and then became a professor of theoretical physics and philosophy. In 1966 he came to McGill University, where he took over the John Frothingham professorship. Mario Bunge retired from teaching in 2009 at the age of 90. After that, he also went on lecture tours - such as 2011 to Beijing, China - and remains active as a book author. In the course of his academic career, he has held guest professorships in numerous countries - including the United States, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland and Australia. Professor Bunge was awarded 19 honorary doctorates and four honorary professorships. He is a member of numerous scientific societies and a prince of Asturias award winners. In the “Hall of Fame” of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) he is positioned in one of the front places (# 43). He can look back on more than 400 publications and has written more than 80 books on quantum theory, philosophy of science, semantics, epistemology, ontology, ethics, political philosophy and science policy.
View of Bunge's “Medical Philosophy”: selected details
First of all: Mario Bunge is no stranger to German-speaking medicine: the methodological discussion of medical practice (cf. Rudolf Seising, medical University of Vienna, Institute of Medical Statistics and Computer Science: “Potentials of Medical Expertsystems, Project number: AB00158OFF).
A multidisciplinary model of human health in Mario Bunge's current “medical philosophy”
For me as a sociologist, Bunge's basic systemic perspective and the associated “integrating” view of processes that cause health or illness in our environment are particularly interesting.
In this context, Bunge takes up research results in his new book, which indicate that scientists from a wide range of disciplines have to significantly expand, if not revolutionize, the previously common model of health-relevant processes. Why?
If we put it a little provocatively, conservative school doctors see people largely detached from "psycho and socio-junk". Her focus is on the organic-chemical-physical complex of human existence.
Bunge, on the other hand, proposes to remove naturalistic and, in general, empiricist ways of thinking from a new medical perspective. He suggests differentiating “bottom-up mechanisms” and “top-down mechanisms” of human health and integrating them into an overall model.
In this way, it becomes possible to consider interlocking organic-chemical-physical processes and socio-psycho-neuro-biological processes in parallel, to research them and to explain them using novel theories.
Simply put, this gives the following picture of Bunge's multidisciplinary perspective:
Bunge points out, among other things, the so-called Whitehall studies carried out in Great Britain. These studies have shown that social stress at work has a significant impact on health and life expectancy:
Bunge affects the medical self-image.
Mario Bunge's new book addresses other topics and aspects that directly affect the medical self-image.
A number of these “sensitive” topics are listed in brief below:
Conclusion - The philosophical perspective gives doctors orientation for the present and the future!
- Bunge shows which concepts, values and standards medics link across disciplines.
- He makes people aware of where medical professionals get these standards and where they are based.
- It sums up the competence that medical practitioners have developed over the centuries - shows what the medical profession has been able to achieve so far.
- He also mercilessly shows which social processes and misguided economic mechanisms are threatening these standards worth protecting today.
- He suggests a multidisciplinary perspective that will enable these threats to be addressed in the future.
Historiography - A look at the history of medical practice strengthens the medical self-image:
- As part of his theoretical analysis of the history of our medical disciplines, Bunge works out the close links between modern medicine and the successes of modern empirical science.
- It shows that medicine is one of the most beneficial "fruits" of modern enlightenment and humanism - medicine as a result of progressive modernity and positive "Scientism", that is, the belief that scientific practice is the best way to gain reliable knowledge about Health and illness to get through diagnosis and therapy.
Medicine - packed with philosophy:
- Bunge analyzes the medical domain in many details - starting with the concept of illness, with the methodological, praxeological and ethical requirements for diagnosis and therapy.
- He shows in detail how successful and exemplary medicine has made use of a scientifically realistic ontology and combined it with humanistic ethics.
- In his book, Bunge encourages medical practitioners to build on this solid philosophical foundation.
- He also calls on medical practitioners to use these standards to expose popular “alternative healing disciplines” as anti-scientific pseudo-medicine instead of accepting them “without a fight”.
Basic criticism - recommendation for further development of medical standards:
- As a scientist, Bunge sees himself called to expose a weakness of the medical discipline - he sees this in its tendency towards naturalistic and empiricistic orientations.
- Associated with this, he sees the danger that medicine will turn away from the consequent formation of theories - in comparison, other scientific disciplines would have done much more theoretical work.
- Bunge puts this critique in a nutshell with the concept of mechanisms: It is about the consequent research of the mechanisms in the human organism that trigger diseases and whose research and theoretical recording is the basis for reliably determining new ways of healing in the future.
- He recognizes “evidence-based medicine” as a “gold standard” based on randomized and controlled tests. However, he warns that there is a qualitatively superior standard: the “platinum standard” of therapies that consistently build on well-founded theoretical knowledge about biological mechanisms.
Voices on the book
Prior to the production of the book, the publisher confronted a number of capacities from a range of research and practical fields with Bunge's manuscript and asked to write short “reviews” to support the book trade:
“Professor Mario Bunge surprises us once more with a lucid discussion of the philosophy of medicine… The insights gained will provide the reader with a more complete vision of the underpinnings of medical theory and practice… It is likely that one will find Bunge's prose entertaining as well as enlightening. ”
Ernesto L. Schiffrin
Professor of Medicine
McGill University, Canada
“Problems were well sorted out and evaluated in a lucid way. It became obvious that Bunge is an experienced writer and that he has an important and readable message. It takes a very clear critical position on various forms of alternative medicine. ”
Professor of Virology
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden
“Bunge brings to his treatment of the subject a familiarity with a vast range of the relevant literature regarding medical issues and his extensive expertise as a philosopher… His work is a clear and cogent treatment of fundamental issues. I enthusiastically recommend the publication of this brightly instructive book. ”
Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy
University of Pittsburgh, USA
“Professor Bunge argues masterfully that physicians, whether or not they are aware of it, operate in the context of a philosophical framework, elegantly presented in this text, that has been influenced by centuries of thought… I recommend this enriching and provocative book broadly. ”
Bradley L. Schlaggar
A. Ernest and Jane G. Stein professor
of Developmental Neurology, in Neurology
Washington University in St. Louis, USA
“… With his brilliant and creative blend of ontological systemic materialism, epistemological realism, science based technology, and humanist ethics, Professor Bunge deals innovatively with the philosophical underpinnings of modern medicine… You will never think about medicine in the same way again.”
Professor of Nursing, Public Health and Psychiatry
University of Toronto, Canada
“This book - the most recent reflections of a life spent in physics, philosophy, and other disciplines - introduces the reader to many familiar questions but puts a philosophical spin on them… This is a tour de force not to be missed by anyone who likes his or her medicine to be leavened with thought. ”
Professor of the History of Medicine and Psychiatry
University of Toronto, Canada
“Reading the book by Professor Mario Bunge is a real intellectual experience, an exciting way to meet the fundamentals of clinical practice. His work is deep and clear, illuminating what we sense but do not know… Medical Philosophy is a milestone in medical thinking. ”
"Through his cross-disciplinary philosophical perspective, Mario Bunge gives us physicians a clear orientation. Bunge does not confine himself to evidence-based medicine, the one centered in randomized controlled trials, ie, our “gold standard.” He proposes convincingly an even higher-quality measure: the “platinum” standard, which is met by therapies that are not only experimentally validated, but also enjoy the support of the scientific knowledge of biological mechanisms. ”
Professor of Medicine
Director, Rheinische Orthopedic Clinic
Details about the book
- Mario Bunge: Medical Philosophy: Conceptual Issues in Philosophy
- 9789814508940 (SC) / 9789814508957 (EB)
- 300 Seiten
- 48 Dollars
- May 31, 2013 (Singapore) / July 31, 2013 (international)
- Via the publisher's website and online bookstores (Amazon etc.)