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February 1983

Medical Thinking: A Historical Preface

Author Affiliations

Harvard Medical School 25 Shattuck St Boston, MA 02115

Am J Dis Child. 1983;137(2):191-192. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1983.02140280083036

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Consider the following situation: universities are proliferating rapidly, the number of professors is increasing even more rapidly, and the growth in the number of students is still greater. Words replace ideas. Is this situation the present one? Not at all. It is the 15th century when the scholastic philosophy is at the height of acceptance, and educational facilities have expanded and developed accordingly. As Henry Osborn Taylor makes clear in the sections on "Duns Scotus" and "Occam" in his Mind of the Middle Ages, the system was actually about to collapse. Fortunately for culture in the Western World, its replacement was already at hand. The effects of the collapse of medieval culture were masked by the glories that the emerging Renaissance was to initiate. The situation was saved by selective recourse to the past.

Likewise, there is reason to believe that American medicine may soon need an approach different from