Abstract

While medicine is surely among humanity's greatest works, the nature of this greatness is beyond its own power to judge. Medicine must answer to ethics. For Immanuel Levinas, ethics is the primordial call of the Other, whose alterity—beyond appropriation, possession or mastery—originally challenges my unquestioning ipseity and thus precedes all forms of knowledge. This recognition of the priority of the Other is quintessentially manifest in my encounter with his suffering and death. Out of this encounter arises the original demand for curative help—for medicine. Unfortunately, medicine, like all forms of knowledge, by nature veils the ethical imperative presupposed by its very existence. Literature helps lift this veil. With its power to bring close, or reflect, distance as such, literature helps medicine face the absolute alterity of the Other's suffering. Paradoxically, it is through its mirroring that literature points medicine beyond its own reflection.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6571
Print ISSN
0278-9671
Pages
pp. 8-18
Launched on MUSE
2005-08-02
Open Access
No
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