An epistemological assessment of positivistic knowledge and humanistic knowing in medical care

Ferguson, Hillary (2018) An epistemological assessment of positivistic knowledge and humanistic knowing in medical care. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (910kB)


This thesis investigates how medical knowledge is developed, implemented and applied. Two types of knowledge are discussed: (1) the positivist stance, regarding observation and evidence as the highest epistemic virtues; (2) humanistic ways of knowing, which consider subjectivity and nuance in medicine. I will discuss three forms of humanistic knowledge categorized as personalized, aesthetic and moral ways of knowing. These forms of knowledge embrace the humanistic goals of medicine and address the individual nature of healing. They seek to empower original thought, intuitive understanding, and ethical sensitivities in healthcare professionals. In contrast to the overarching mission of positivistic medicine to produce general knowledge about patient groups, humanism looks to particular patients and their unique caregivers. Positivistic knowledge and humanistic ways of knowing are viewed as essential to the clinical decision making process and are deemed to be complementary approaches, not rival theories. Used in combination, both strategies for seeking knowledge strengthen the overarching goals of medicine.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 13561
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 77-88).
Keywords: Medical Epistemology, Positivism, Humanism, Clinical Reasoning, Evidence-Based Medicine
Department(s): Medicine, Faculty of > Community Health
Date: October 2018
Date Type: Submission
Medical Subject Heading: Knowledge; Humanism; Morals.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics