For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"E-care as craftsmanship: virtuous work, skilled engagement, and information technology in health care"

by Coeckelbergh, Mark (2013)


Contemporary health care relies on electronic devices. These technologies are not ethically neutral but change the practice of care. In light of Sennett's work and that of other thinkers (Dewey, Dreyfus, Borgmann) one worry is that "e-care"--care by means of new information and communication technologies--does not promote skilful and careful engagement with patients and hence is neither conducive to the quality of care nor to the virtues of the care worker. Attending to the kinds of knowledge involved in care work and their moral significance, this paper explores what "craftsmanship" means in the context of medicine and health care and discusses whether today the care giver's craftsmanship is eroded. It is argued that this is a real danger, especially under modern conditions and in the case of telecare, but that whether it happens, and to what extent it happens, depends on whether in a specific practice and given a specific technology e-carers can develop the know-how and skill to engage more intensely with those under their care and to cooperate with their co-workers.

Key Passage

However, influenced by Sennet’s notion of craftsmanship, Dewey’s emphasis on know-how, and Dreyfus’s view of ethical expertise, we can make a much closer connection between techne and phronesis—and between poiesis and praxis— than Aristotle. I propose that we define the mastery and ‘‘technical’’ expertise that is needed in craftsmanship not as mere means to an end, but as being directly constitutive of the good praxis aims at. In a specific practice, developing and applying ‘‘technical’’ expertise as a highly skilledcraftsman is not entirely different from making wise judgments and doing good. On the contrary, in craftsmanship understood as professional excellence and as good practice, means and end merge: good craftsmanship requires at the same time techne and phronesis. ‘‘Making things’’ and ‘‘doing good’’ merge craftsmanship as ‘‘making good things’’, which includes, as MacIntyre has put it, ‘the capacity to judge and to do the right thing in the right place at the right time in the right way." (p.808)


Heidegger, Care Work, Health Care, Medicine, Dreyfus, Technology, Craftsmanship


Skills, On Heidegger

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