A two-dimensional theory of health

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 28 (4):257-284 (2007)
The starting point for the contemporary debate about theories of health should be the holistic theory of Lennart Nordenfelt, claims George Khushf, not the refuted theory of Christopher Boorse. The present paper is an attempt to challenge Nordenfelt and to present an alternative theory to his and other theories, including Boorse’s. The main problems with Nordenfelt’s theory are that it is relativistic, that it leads to counter-intuitive results as to what goals can count as healthy, that it focuses on the wrong kind of abilities, that it makes measuring health extra difficult, and that it does not give us a sufficient account of health, at most a necessary one. The alternative theory proposed is two-dimensional. First, health is to have developed the abilities and dispositions that members of one’s culture typically develop, and be able to use them, in acceptable circumstances; and second, health is to experience positive moods and sensations, the kinds that have internal causes. The theory solves the problems attached to Nordenfelt’s theory by not being individual relativistic, by eliminating the goals in the definition, by giving an alternative interpretation of “ability,” by making health easier to measure, and by adding the dimension of well-being that, together with health as ability, not only gives us a necessary, but also a sufficient, account of health.
Keywords Ability  basic ability  environment  goals  health  holistic theory  suffering  well-being
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DOI 10.1007/s11017-007-9043-z
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