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

Good work also means knowing how to deal with things and knowing how to care for them. Dreyfus and Kelly argue that by engaging in skilled activities, we can learn to care for things rather than treating them as ‘a mere resource’ (Dreyfus and Kelly 2011, p. 217)—something Heidegger warned for in his later work (see for example Heidegger 1977). Again the craftsman’s understanding is a tacit, intuitive one, based on practical experience. The authors write about the craftsman who sees how the wood ‘will respond to an axe’ (Dreyfus and Kelly 2011, p. 208). They say that the wheelwright achieved ‘intimacy’ with the material and respects it (p. 210). (p.809)


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


Skills, On Heidegger

Links to Reference



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