Practical wisdom in complex medical practices: a critical proposal.


St Jansdal Hospital, Wethouder Jansenlaan 90, 3844 DC, Harderwijk, The Netherlands. [Email]


In recent times, daily, ordinary medical practices have incontrovertibly been developing under the condition of complexity. Complexity jeopardizes the moral core of practicing medicine: helping people, with their illnesses and suffering, in a medically competent way. Practical wisdom (a modification of the Aristotelian phronèsis) has been proposed as part of the solution to navigate complexity, aiming at the provision of morally good care. Practical wisdom should help practitioners to maneuver in complexity, where the presupposed linear ways of operating prove to be insufficient. However, this solution is unsatisfactory, because the proposed versions of practical wisdom are too individualistic of nature, while physicians are continuously operating in varying teams, and dealing with complicated technologies and pressing structures. A second point of critique is, that these versions are theory based, and thus insufficiently attuned to the actual context of everyday medical practices. Now, our proposal is to use an approach of practical wisdom that enables medical practices to counter the complexity issue and to re-invent the moral core of medical practicing as well. This implies a practice oriented approach, as thematized by practice theory, qualitative empirical research from the inside, and abduction from actual performed practical wisdom towards an apt understanding of phronèsis.


Care ethics,Complexity,Practical wisdom,Practice theory,Qualitative empirical research,