When I have seen Andrew Weil on PBS fund-raising specials, I've
always been impressed by how articulate and smart he is, and he
is just as convincing here. His contribution to this three CD
set is a 25 minute discussion of the role of medical education
in the future of integrative medicine. His criticisms of current
medical education are very well made, and seem as valid in 2002
as they have been for most of the last quarter century that Weil
has been doing his work. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing him on this
CD talk about the terrible state of hospital food and the wrong-headedness
of so much of current medical thinking.
Weil and his colleagues give presentations to a live audience
about various elements in what is sometimes known as alternative
or complementary medicine. Other physicians on these CDs address
the mind/body continuum, nutrition, botanical medicine, Chinese
medicine, and a question and answer session, as well as providing
a guided meditation and an exercise for contemplating your personal
The other speakers are not as articulate or as impressive as Weil,
and there are some problems with the sound quality - there is
some distortion of the sound in several of the talks. The information
the speakers give will be mostly familiar to most people who have
done some reading in the area already, but it could serve as a
good introduction for those who are new to these ideas.
On the second CD, Victoria Maizes and William Benda go in for
some rather tiresome Descartes-bashing, saying that Descartes'
separation of the mind and body was a terrible turn of events
for our self-understanding. This attributes too much influence
to Descartes, since he was not able to influence the thinking
of the whole of western medicine, and it also misunderstands Descartes'
philosophy, since he was very concerned to emphasize how much
interaction there is between mind and body. A serious attempt
to discover why medicine started to forget the ability of the
mind to influence the health of the body would need to look far
more carefully at the history of western medicine.
Despite such flaws, the general ideas behind integrative medicine,
that doctors should be open minded about the many ways there are
to treat health problems, and that methods such as meditation,
nutrition, exercise, and the medicines of other cultures are effective,
are explained well here. Only a small amount of time is spent
on mental health problems; the main ideas mentioned are the beneficial
effects of exercise on depression. So this CD package would not
be very useful for those looking for clear guides to non-traditional
ways of improving one's health. But it could be a useful starting
point for people curious about these issues.
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.