Chapter

Two Basic Ideas of Medicine

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520257658.003.0080
Two Basic Ideas of Medicine

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This chapter provides an introduction to European medicine and its effect on the Chinese. There are two fundamental ideas in medicine in China as in Europe. One fundamental idea sees inherent laws in society, nature, and the human body. One who follows the laws survives and stays healthy. One who disobeys the laws will be punished, mildly or harshly, depending on the offense. Sometimes disobedience can cost one's life. The more civilized a society is, the more it can moderate the extent of punishment. The task of medicine is to protect people from the merciless punishments of nature. The other fundamental idea is that plausibility projects social life onto the life of an individual organism. An individual has friends as well as enemies so one must be on guard against enemies as they can hurt. There are enemies that wait to attack and then make an individual waste away, bleed, and perhaps even die. An individual organism sometimes wastes away without any attack by a visible enemy. In such cases, it must have been a miniscule or invisible enemy.

Keywords: European medicine; human body; task of medicine; punishments of nature; social life; invisible enemy

Chapter.  566 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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