Humanity today is mainly concerned with the question of how we can live our unpredictable and limited existence in order to live a long and healthy life. Highly developed medicine helps us to do this. Very few, instead, want to think about the end. But since time is the condition of all human experience – but for us mortals it is limited – the answers to the current challenges in medical practice are increasingly linked to answers to philosophical questions.

In "The Practice of Medicine as Being in Time" Raymond C. Barfield deals with the symbiosis between medicine and philosophy and attempts to show that the meaning and purpose of medical practice is inseparable from existence in time.

Featured Reviews:

“Dr. Barfield has incredibly insightful words for these changing times in medicine. His exquisite craftsmanship in this text is impressive, but especially his keen ability to expertly circumnavigate this complex topic that is so important to us all – health and human life in the modern era.” Dr. David Markham, Emory University.

"Is Raymond Barfield a physician who happens to be a philosopher or a philosopher who happens to be a physician? One thing is for sure: he’s able to use words in ways that remind us of their overwhelming meaning – words like “disease,” “love,” “death,” and “How can I help today?” As our vast healthcare systems suffer from the illnesses of managed care and the bottom line, this book is an urgent and humane exploration of what the practice of medicine is all about." Prof. Scott Samuelson, author of Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering and The Deepest Human Life.

Short description:

This is an exciting but difficult time for the practice of medicine. The impact of corporate transformation on practice is part of a larger cultural crisis. The arena of medicine is a testing ground for our responses to this crisis because it is so closely and directly connected to our bodies.

The limitation of time gives our lives the arc of a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Unfortunately, many of us in the modern world avoid thinking about limits in our lives – especially the limit of our time called death. The practice of medicine serves people who have reached limits in their lives caused by the threat of illness and death. Because good medical practice is so closely linked to the complex effects these threats have on our limited lives, this book argues that the meaning and purpose of medical practice is inextricably linked to existence in time.

The book will be published on 20.10.2020.


About the author:

Raymond Barfield is Professor of Pediatrics and Christian Philosophy at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He received his MD and his PhD (in philosophy) from Emory University. He is a pediatric oncologist and palliative care physician with an interest in expanding the role of the humanities and the arts in the formation of physicians. He teaches philosophy in the Divinity School at Duke. He has published widely in medicine, philosophy, and literature, including several books: Life in the Blind Spot (poetry), The Book of Colors (a novel), The Ancient Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy, Wager: Beauty, Suffering, and Being in the World, and The Poetic Apriori: Philosophical Imagination in a Meaningful Universe. He was the founding director of three programs at Duke: Pediatric Quality of Life and Palliative Care, Theology, Medicine, and Culture and Reimagine Medicine. Currently he is the director of the Medical Humanities Program for the Trent Center for Bioethics, Medical Humanities, and History of Medicine in the Medical School. Ray is married to Karen Barfield, an Episcopal priest. They have two children, Micah and Alexandra, and one grandson named Crew.


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