Robert D'Amico
University of Florida
This article concerns the metaphysics of disease. Is disease a fixed feature of the world or a social value or preference? I argue that disease is not a value-laden concept and thus debates concerning it differ fundamentally from debates concerning health, harm, or suffering where evaluative judgements are central. I show how the so-called social constructionist view of disease has been motivated both by ethical concerns with medical practices and general theoretical doubts about scientific naturalism. If I can show that ethical concerns about medical treatment can be answered without adopting social constructionism, that leaves only the broader theoretical question of naturalism. I cannot completely answer those theoretical doubts, but I show that the theoretical motivation is less convincing when it is separated from the moral challenge often accompanying it. I conclude that a convincing defense of the non-naturalistic conception of disease is rarely attempted and proves more difficult and counter-intuitive than its proponents assume.
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