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Heidegger, Medicine & 'Scientific Method'
The unheeded Heritage of the Zollikon Seminars

Peter Wilberg
New Gnosis Publications

1. Heidegger and Scientific Method
2. Dimensions of Field-Phenomenological Medicine
3. Heidegger, Human Genomics and Health Fascism
4. Organismic Therapy as Medicine beyond Medicine
5. The Principles of the Field-Phenomenological Method

In one short volume, Peter Wilberg concisely summarises Heidegger's critique of the 'scientific method' as this is applied medicine, redefines the basic principles of the 'phenomenological method' and sets out the foundations of a new 'field-phenomenological' approach to medicine.





"The essential realm in which biology moves can never be grounded in biology as a science." Martin Heidegger

At a time when scientific thinkers are peddling the philosophical absurdity that it is not human beings but their 'brains' that think, this is a timely book indeed. For it was in the course of the Zollikon Seminars, held with a group of genuinely thinking physicians and psychiatrists, that Heidegger delivered his central message - that the human body was no mere bounded biological entity pre-programmed by its genes but a living embodiment of the human being.

Heidegger's profound explorations of the relation between being and bodyhood undermined the very notion that the human being could be divided into a 'holistic' assemblage of separate entities labelled 'mind', 'body' and 'spirit' - or psyche and soma. Yet the deeper questions that Heidegger raised in the Zollikon Seminars are still consistently sidestepped in the fields of brain science and genetics, 'psycho-neuro-immunology' and 'psychosomatics'. Indeed all medical-scientific 'explanations' of illness have so far avoided the far more fundamental question of what illness itself essentially is - reducing it to a biological, behavioural or neurological 'disorder' and ignoring the intimate connection between individual health and the health of human social relations.

Medard Boss tells us that it was Heidegger's hope that his thinking would "...escape the confines of the philosopher's study and become of benefit to wider circles, in particular to a large number of suffering human beings." Attempts to fulfil this hope have focused almost exclusively on bringing Heideggerian thinking to bear in the field of 'psychotherapy' and in the understanding of psychological disorders and 'mental' illness. The relevance of the Zollikon Seminars for our understanding of 'somatic' disorders and 'physical' illness - indeed the entire domain of medicine - have been largely neglected. This neglect has perpetuated in practice the very separation of psyche and soma which Heidegger questioned in principle.

The aim of Heidegger, Medicine and 'Scientific Method' is to help make sure that the profound implications of the Zollikon Seminars for medical science and medical practice do not remain unheeded. In one short volume Peter Wilberg concisely summarises Heidegger's critique of 'scientific method' as this is applied in medicine, redefines the basic principles of the 'phenomenological method' and sets out the foundations of a new 'field-phenomenological' approach to medicine. Grounded in Heidegger's fundamental distinction between the physical body (Körper) and the 'lived' or 'felt' body (Leib), field-phenomenological medicine offers a new but highly practical understanding of the relation between a patient's disease 'pathology' and the felt dis-ease or pathos that it embodies.

As an 'antidote' to the notoriety surrounding Heidegger's involvement with National Socialism, Peter Wilberg also emphasises that Heidegger's thinking was and remains the only thinking capable of challenging the scientific basis of racial eugenics and medical genetics - and with it the whole ideology of modern biological medicine and psychiatry. This is an ideology which Nazi physicians played a key role in spawning, one which denies any inner meaning to illness, and aims at nothing less than finding 'Final Solutions' to all forms of social and individual dis-ease 


This book draws on Heidegger’s reflections on science as ‘method’ to introduce a new phenomenological concept of ‘scientific method’. Phenomenology is not presented simply as an alternative method of qualitative scientific research of particular or exclusive relevance to the human sciences, but as the basis of any truly
fundamental science – and of a fundamentally new understanding of medicine in particular. The book is in five parts:

Part 1
deals with the underlying aims and assumptions of the ‘modern scientific method’, with particular emphasis on their application in modern medicine. Its primary sources are the central issues raised by Heidegger with physicians and psychiatrists in the course of the Zollikon Seminars.

Part 2
addresses the fundamental nature of modern science as a sense-making or ‘semiotic’ activity, one that seeks ordered patterns of significance in phenomena. The semiotics of modern science is contrasted with an authentic phenomenological semiotics – one that does not reduce the meaning of phenomena to their place within already established patterns of significance.

Part 3
outlines in a new way the basic principles of the phenomenological method, doing so in a manner that highlights its relevance for both the human and natural sciences. It is the author’s belief that phenomenological method, understood as the essence of scientific method per se, fulfils not only the original scientific project of Husserlian phenomenology but also Marx’s humanistic vision of a unified or “integral” science - one that is both a “natural science of man” and a “human science of nature”.

Part 4
seeks to show how a field-dynamic concept of ‘phenomenology’ can lay the foundations of a new field-phenomenological medicine - one that transcends the metaphysical and methodological assumption of current medical science and practice. It begins with a summary of the basic principles of field-phenomenological science and goes on to explore different phenomenological, ontological, relational and cultural dimensions of medical theory and practice.

Part 5
explores the ethical-historical dimensions of biological and genetic medicine, in particular the links between eugenics and human genomics and the key role played by German physicians and psychiatrists in providing a ‘medical-model’ justification for the ‘Final Solution’. In doing so it acknowledges Heidegger’s role in challenging the foundations of both Nazi biologism and biological and genetic medicine in general.

As a postscript I set out briefly the practical essence of field-phenomenological medicine as meta-medicine or ‘medicine beyond medicine’ – a new post-Holocaust approach to health and healing grounded in three fundamental ontological distinctions: between the human body and the human being, between the physical body (Körper) and the felt or lived body (Leib), and between the clinical manifestations of disease pathology on the one hand and, on the other hand, the felt dis-ease or pathos which it embodies.




Field-phenomenological foundations
Principles of field-phenomenological medicine
Ontological dimensions of field-phenomenological medicine
Metaphorical dimensions of field-phenomenological medicine
Diagnostic dimensions of field-phenomenological medicine
Pathosophical dimensions of field-phenomenological medicine
Psychosomatic dimensions of field-phenomenological medicine



Phenomenological Reduction
Phenomenological Rule
Phenomenological Reading
Phenomenological Relation
Phenomenological Realism
Phenomenological Reversal
Phenomenological Reciprocity
Phenomenological Retrieval
Phenomenological Re-embodiment

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