Medicine in the Hands of Celestial Offices: Medical Epistemology in Ancient China and its Relation to Morality
Keywords:中國古代醫學, 知識論, 道德
LANGUAGE NOTE | Document text in Chinese; abstract also in English.
This essay offers a genealogy of medical epistemology in ancient China, which, unfortunately, lost its independent status after the Song Dynasty, when Confucian morality became the dominant discourse in all disciplines, including medicine. The author challenges the common view held by Confucian scholars that medicine does not constitute a self-contained domain of activity with its own morality and ethics, because it is seen as a realm of “applied ethics.” This view makes medicine, medical techniques, and medical ethics instruments for the embodiment and actualization of the Confucian virtue of benevolence (ren), but undermines the complexity of medicine and medical practice.
It is concluded that the moralization of medicine can be a dangerous practice. It is equally dangerous when ancient Chinese ideas such as “the unity of heaven and humanity” (tianren heyi) and “mutual identification between medicine and Confucianism” (yiru xiangtong) are used to explain and resolve contemporary problems without qualification.
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Copyright (c) 2013 International Journal of Chinese & Comparative Philosophy of Medicine
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