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Taste, intersubjectivity and medical expertise: the correspondence of George Cheyne, Selina Hastings and their patients

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>BJHS Themes
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)139-156
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date25/03/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper examines the medical correspondence between the physician George Cheyne and the aristocrats Selina Hastings and Susan Keck. Written during the 1730s, these letters reveal that both Cheyne and his patients articulated a model of medical expertise based not on knowledge in any conventional sense, but rather on fellow feeling or intersubjectivity. Drawing on letters sent by Keck to Hastings that have yet to be noticed by historians, this paper tries to understand how Cheyne and Keck sought to convince Hastings that they had felt exactly the same symptoms under which she had suffered. In so doing, it draws on scholarship concerned with the sociology of taste. Whilst it does not claim that the intersubjective form of expertise modelled by Cheyne was a form of taste, it argues that the moves he and his patients made were analogous to the strategies used at other times and places by those concerned with taste. In both cases, the participants sought ways to obtain consensus about the supposedly subjective dimensions of human experience.