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January 24, 1986

Virtue and Medicine: Explorations in the Character of Medicine

Author Affiliations

Internal Medicine Associates Springfield, Mo


edited by Earl E. Shelp (Philosophy and Medicine, vol 17, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr, and Stuart F. Spicker, eds), 363 pp, with illus, $48, Dordrecht, the Netherlands, D Reidel Publishing Co, 1985.

JAMA. 1986;255(4):549-550. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370040125043

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Virtue and Medicine is a 355-page collection of essays primarily written by philosophers and ethicists dealing with the emerging trend of "virtue-based" theory in modern ethics supplementing or replacing the concepts of "duty-based" or "rights-based" ethical theory. The essays explore issues of character (virtue) in relation to issues of conduct or rules and regulations in formulating ethical behavior, particularly as related to medicine. The book is intended for philosophers, physicians, ethicists, and historians of medicine. Unfortunately, the discipline of philosophy, dealing more in the abstract, and the practice of medicine, dealing more with the real life situations, like oil and water, may interface but never really mix. For this reason, the book as a whole will be unappealing to many physicians. There are, however, several interesting and thought-provoking essays in this collection.

The book initially provides a historical analysis of virtue beginning with classical Greek thought, in which health was