Why the West Spurns Medical Rituals

  • Griffin TrotterEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies in Contemporary Culture book series (PSCC, volume 21)


This essay investigates the use of ritual in medicine and argues that the healing power of rituals has been under-appreciated and under-utilized in Western biomedicine, despite its own inventory of medical rituals, because of its commitments to biomedical materialism. The argument hinges on an analysis of the confused Western effort to employ only therapies that heal through “specific” physiologic pathways (rather than through the “non-specific” placebo effect). Non-Western medical traditions that embrace healing rituals would be impoverished were they to uncritically adopt biomedical materialism, with its disdain for “non-specific” pathways (such as rituals) to healing.


Rituals Western medicine Placebo effect Materialism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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