S. Kay Toombs

Department of Philosophy, Baylor University, Waco, Texas 76798

“This is a brilliant book, brimming with significant insights incorporated into a lucidly developed phenomenological account (as the subtitle says) of the different perspectives of physician and patient on the meaning of illness.

As to the relevant interests of Ed Ballard, this work admirably follows Ballard’s “ironical” in- junction in Man and Technology to think along the crossroads of technology and the humanistic tradition of caring for the significance of the unique individual, adopting as its stance neither technolatry nor technophobia.

In this case, specifically, Toombs attempts to account for, and to suggest ways of remedying, the systematic gaps in understanding illness between that of the patient, based upon unique lived experience, and that of the physician, based upon abstract scientific conceptualization. Her account is consistently phenomenological, involving such typical themes as the correlativity of noetic and noematic aspects of meaning, horizons of meaning in the temporality of lived exper- ience, the lived body, and various (e.g., individual and common) aspects of the presupposed life- world, as well as, centrally, the ongoing assumptions of reversibility of standpoints among individuals and of congruence of relevant interpretations, assumptions which facilitate the move beyond many private worlds to a common communicative world.

In each stage of her account, several admirable features stand out. One is her exemplary lucidity. Pertinent phenomenological themes are carefully clarified in plain, jargon-free language illustrated by appropriate examples. Another is her constant focus on the one central topic. Phenomenology provides, in her writing, the means of spelling out the depths and complexities involved in the thematized difference of perspective. It also provides the means for understanding why that difference is readily overlooked. This constant thematic focus allows her to draw upon the work of many phenomenologists, e.g., Husserl, Schutz, and Sartre, wherever their work provides insight into some phase of her topic. Finally, she appeals also to a broader literature bearing upon her subject.”

Other books nominated for the 1997 prize:

James Mensch, After Modernity. Albany: SUNY, 1996.

Robert Mugerauer, Interpretations on Behalf of Place. Albany: SUNY, 1994.

Anthony Steinbock, Home and Beyond. Evanston: Northwestern University, 1995.