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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • Benner;
  • body;
  • Cartesianism;
  • control;
  • dualism;
  • medicine;
  • mind;
  • person;
  • philosophy

Asthma and dualism

The rejection of Cartesian dualism can be taken to imply that the mind is implicated in health and illness to a greater degree than conventional medicine would suggest. Surprisingly, however, there appears to be a train of thought in antidualist nursing theory which takes the opposite view. This paper looks closely at an interesting example of antidualist thinking — an article in which Benner and her colleagues comment on the ways in which people with asthma make sense of their condition — and concludes that it places unduly stringent and arbitrary limits on the mind’s role. It then asks how antidualism can lead to such a dogmatic rejection of the idea that states of the body are clinically influenced by states of mind. The answer to this question is that Benner assimilates very different philosophical theories into the same ‘tradition’. On this occasion, she has combined Descartes, Kant and the Platonist ascetics into a single package, misleadingly labelled ‘Cartesianism’, and this move accounts for her unexpected views on the relation between mind and body in asthma.