In defence of Cartesian dualism and the hermeneutic horizon


  • Robyn J Holden MA RPN FRCNA

    Doctoral Student of Philosophical Studies, Corresponding author
    1. School of Humanities, Deakin University, Victoria, and Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing Studies, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia
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Correspondnce Ms R.J Holden, Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing Studies, University of Tasmania – Launceston, PO Box 1214, Launceston, Tasmania 7250, Australia


In this paper, the author proposes to consider the intricate interplay between the art and science of nursing The caring role, intrinsic to the meaning of the word ‘nurse”, constrains nursing under the rubric of the arts, while nursing that embraces high technology constrains the discipline under the rubric of science Thus, the traditional dichotomy that obtains between the arts and sciences seriously complicates the notion of nursing As a science, nursing adopts the materialist theory of the mind that endorses the inseparability of mind and body However, as an art, nursing is more closely aligned with dualist interactiorusm which considers the mind and body to be separate, interacting entities Nursing is a caring profession, the mastery of which rests on the mastery of the therapeutic relationship which, in turn, implies mastery of holistic nursing care While the concept of holism implies caring for the ‘whole’ person in body, mind and spirit, such acknowledgement of the mental and spiritual components of personhood, immediately invites the entry of dualism into our theoretical discourse Thus, rejection of dualism consigns nursing to theoretical impoverishment and therapeutic emasculation The contentious question is therefore Is the theoretical destiny of nursing one of theoretical impoverishment, therapeutic emasculation, and permanent consignment to professional ignominy – and all for the sake of an inconvenient soul?