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Groundwork for a metaphysic of person-centred care: a contribution from Ordinary Language Philosophy

Bill KWM Fulford


This article explores the meaning of person-centred care using an approach based on the ordinary language philosophy of J.L. Austin and others of the mid-twentieth Century ‘Oxford School’. Section I outlines the essential feature of ordinary language philosophy as a shift of attention from definition to use: ordinary language philosophy explores the meanings of terms (and their inherent conceptual challenges) not by the traditional philosophical approach of ever-more-careful definition but by exploring how the terms in question are actually used in everyday (i.e. unreflective) contexts. Section II explores the conceptual challenges presented by person-centred care by applying three particular components of ordinary language philosophy (philosophical field work, outputs as more complete views, and methodological teamwork) to two exemplar papers. Section III describes how the groundwork provided by ordinary language philosophy of the kind exemplified by Section II has been built on successfully in one particular form of person-centred care, namely the person-values-centred care of values-based practice. The chapter concludes with some of the limitations and challenges presented by an ordinary language philosophy of person-centred care. Of particular concern in the light of Isaiah Berlin’s work on the ‘challenge of pluralism’ is the inherent and irreducible pluralism of person-centred care.


Conceptual challenges, definition, ordinary use of terms, person-values-centred care, pluralism, values, values-based practice

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