Accepted Paper:

The experience of experience: phenomenological diagnosing without object making in East Asian medical settings  

Author:

Taewoo Kim (College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University)

Paper Short Abstract:

By combining field data and Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, this study examines the mode of perception in East Asian medicine, centered on bodily experience.

Paper long abstract:

How do East Asian medical practitioners diagnose various diseases, solely relying on their own bodies? If biomedical doctors refer to objectified concreteness, such as radiology images, what do traditional practitioners rely on? Why are disease names in East Asian medicine elusive, compared to those in biomedicine? If biomedical disease names designate bodily spaces of affliction, such as liver cancer, why does East Asian medicine tend not to use the spatial fixing? Drawing on three years of fieldwork at Korean medicine clinics in South Korea, this study ethnographically responds to these questions. While the objectification-oriented perception has greatly contributed to biomedicine in this era of cutting-edge diagnostic tools, phenomenological perception shapes the effectiveness of East Asian medicine. By looking at face colors and taking pulses, practitioners of East Asian medicine experience the ways patients experience illness. This "experience of experience" enables practitioners to identify how patients suffer from illnesses at any moment in time, without relying on objectifiable entities. Through long-term "experience of experience," a novice becomes an experienced practitioner, setting up medical "intentionality" that links the practitioner's subject and patients' experience. The elusiveness of East Asian medical terms allows practitioners to employ their own definitions of how a patient suffers at a given time. By combining field data and Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, this study examines the mode of perception in East Asian medicine, centered on bodily experience.

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The sensory experience of suffering and healing