How to Proceed in the Disease Concept Debate? A Pragmatic Approach

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 42 (4):424-446 (2017)
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In the traditional philosophical debate over different conceptual analyses of “disease,” it is often presupposed that “disease” is univocally definable and that there are clear boundaries which distinguish this univocal category “disease” from the category of “nondisease.” In this paper, I will argue for a shift in the discussion on the concept of “disease” and propose an alternative, pragmatic approach that is based on the conviction that “disease” is not a theoretical concept but a practical term. I develop a view on which our use of the term “disease” is determined by two interacting factors, namely, value-laden considerations about the desirabilty of certain states and discoveries of cause which is/are explanatorily relevant. I show how these factors interact with regard to a taxonomy of kinds of diseases. This pragmatic approach will not lead me to a final definition of “disease,” but will result in a more realistic description of the way we build, use, apply, and change our concept of “disease.” Meanwhile, it is useful as a basis for critical reflection on disease-labeling in medicine.



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References found in this work

Health as a theoretical concept.Christopher Boorse - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (4):542-573.
Disease.Rachel Cooper - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 33 (2):263-282.
Defining 'health' and 'disease'.Marc Ereshefsky - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40 (3):221-227.

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