Health as a theoretical concept

Philosophy of Science 44 (4):542-573 (1977)
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Abstract

This paper argues that the medical conception of health as absence of disease is a value-free theoretical notion. Its main elements are biological function and statistical normality, in contrast to various other ideas prominent in the literature on health. Apart from universal environmental injuries, diseases are internal states that depress a functional ability below species-typical levels. Health as freedom from disease is then statistical normality of function, i.e., the ability to perform all typical physiological functions with at least typical efficiency. This conception of health is as value-free as statements of biological function. The view that health is essentially value-laden, held by most writers on the topic, seems to have one of two sources: an assumption that health judgments must be practical judgments about the treatment of patients, or a commitment to "positive" health beyond the absence of disease. I suggest that the assumption is mistaken, the commitment possibly misdescribed

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Christopher Boorse
University of Delaware

Citations of this work

Biological normativity: a new hope for naturalism?Walter Veit - 2021 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 24 (2):291-301.
A Second Rebuttal On Health.Christopher Boorse - 2014 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 39 (6):683-724.

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References found in this work

The Structure of Science.Ernest Nagel - 1961 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):275-275.
On the distinction between disease and illness.Christopher Boorse - 1975 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 5 (1):49-68.
Wright on functions.Christopher Boorse - 1976 - Philosophical Review 85 (1):70-86.
Analytical Biology.G. Sommerhof - 1951 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 2 (5):73-74.

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