SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

Papers Proceedings »

The Chief Concern of Medicine: The Integration of the Medical Humanities and Narrative Knowledge into Medical Practices

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The Chief Concern of Medicine makes a philosophical argument that clinical physicians need to be educated in the humanities. More specifically, doctors should be educated in narrative competence—the skill of listening to, understanding, and interpreting patients’ stories—in order both to improve diagnostic accuracy and to establish a relationship of empathy and solidarity with their patients. Building on the insights of C.S. Peirce, Aristotle, Martha Nussbaum, and others in the fields of linguistics, semiotics, narratology, and discourse theory, the authors both defend the reality, meaning, and efficacy of narrative concepts and knowledge and explain the art of teaching narrative competence to future physicians. The authors philosophically defend the genre of narrative medicine and present usable explanations of the ways stories organize themselves to help doctors become more narratively competent.


Ronald Schleifer    
Oklahoma University
United States

Jerry Vannatta    
Oklahoma University
United States

Seth Vannatta    
Morgan State University
United States


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