Aristotelian Philosophy of the Human Person, the Theory and Conceptual Framework of Imogene King Expanded to a Global Perspective

Sunday, 8 November 2015: 4:40 PM

Beverly J. Whelton, MSN, MA, PhD, RN
Department of Philosophy, Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling, WV, USA

Aristotelian Philosophy of the Human Person, the Theory and Conceptual Framework of Imogene King expanded to a Global perspective

The Aristotelian philosophy of the human person places the individual as one of the human kind having unique natural capacities of conceptual knowledge and freedom of choice within this knowledge base.   This philosophical perspective (moderate realism) considers the world intelligible as the human intellect grasps formal conceptual properties of the world of experience, frames propositions and is able to reason to new understandings.  Earlier publications (Whelton, 1996, 1999, 2007) showed that Imogene King was grounded in this realist perspective.  Aware of these capacities of knowledge and choice, King (1971, 1981) saw that when patients become active participants in identifying needs and transacting health related goals they more actively chose to achieve these goals whose achievement becomes evidence for evidence-based practice (King’s theory of Goal Attainment).  

          The individual and his or her physical capacities is King’s personal system.  Additional detail on nature and the capacities of living beings is provided by the contemporary philosopher William A. Wallace (1996).  Whelton (2002a, 2002b, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013) applies these to nursing and health-care decisions.  Using the insights of phenomenology, Norris Clarke (1999) adds that human persons transcend their substantial being (material and formal existence) to enter into relationships.  Human transcendence is the matrix of King’s interpersonal system, the space within which patient and nurse interact in the therapeutic relationship.  Clarke will say that transcendence is both the source of community and human fulfillment.  Nurses transcend themselves in the care of other persons.  What is being provided is that humanity is the heart of health care within the personal existence of the nurse and the patient.  This is a global phenomenon that unites all health care.  Particular physical, social, economic, cultural and spiritual circumstances individualize both nursing needs and nursing care provided.  This language seems to overlook Public Health and organizational system concerns.  This is not the case.  All of these services are for care of patients and the provision of nursing. By addressing individuals and families, one is addressing organizations through which individuals and families receive care.    

            Most health care is provided within an organized delivery system that is represented by King as the social system.  Social systems are complex interactive human communities.  They have formal and informal mission statements, goals and policies. There are leaders, managers and staff.  In our emerging world culture, nurses are called to assess not only individual physical, social and spiritual capacities and needs (including cultural contributions), family ability to care for the patient, social and economic stability of the family within the community, but the impact of political, economic and technological developments within the patient’s global geographic region.  This assessment with strengths and problem identification, subsequent interventions and evaluation of effectiveness extends from individual and their family to their community, state and country.  The provision of health care is impacted by the socio-political system, economics and technology available within the patient’s global system.  King did not write about a global system but she worked within one in her outreach to nurse educators in Japan and other parts of the world.  Nursing today provides health-care to individuals in a global community and must have conceptual tools for structuring data, processes and stabilities within global systems.  The intent of this presentation has been to contribute to these understandings.


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Attaining the Future – Bridging the Gaps.  Southern Vermont College, Bennington, Vermont, April 5-6.