Text and disease: thinking beyond Ricoeur

Ricoeur, in explicating the anti-foundationalism of hermeneutics, which rests on the phenomenological legacy of Husserl but is resolutely opposed to its idealism as a metaphysical nostalgia for the Hegelian absolute, places the philosophically informed work of hermeneutics in the immanence of the text, whereby the texuality of the text, or its being, is the being that exists beyond the subjectivity of the author, even the field of her comprehension (Ricoeur 1975, p. 91 and p. 94).

In the context of nursing theory, which has as its imperative the healing of the patient or the palliative care of the dying, what confronts the nurse is not only the texuality of her communication with the patient, but with the sheer immanence of the patient’s diseased condition itself. Without falling into the objectivism of pathophysiology, the hermeneutically trained nurse looks for the uncanny (unheimlich) belonging-together of Dasein and disease in the being-in-the-world of the patient as the starting point of interpretation. Hence, founded upon the existential projection of care (Sorge), nursing practice, when it takes on the reflexivity of thought in philosophy, has a unique Sache which differentiates itself from the academic hermeneutic practice in the humanities, which preoccupies itself almost exclusively with texts both ancient and modern.