A Fictionalist Account of Open-Label Placebo

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 49 (3):246-256 (2024)
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The placebo effect is now generally defined widely as an individual’s response to the psychosocial context of a clinical treatment, as distinct from the treatment’s characteristic physiological effects. Some researchers, however, argue that such a wide definition leads to confusion and misleading implications. In response, they propose a narrow definition restricted to the therapeutic effects of deliberate placebo treatments. Within the framework of modern medicine, such a scope currently leaves one viable placebo treatment paradigm: the non-deceptive and non-concealed administration of “placebo pills” or open-label placebo (OLP) treatment. In this paper, I consider how the placebo effect occurs in OLP. I argue that a traditional, belief-based account of OLP is paradoxical. Instead, I propose an account based on the non-doxastic attitude of pretence, understood within a fictionalist framework.



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Doug Hardman
Bournemouth University

Citations of this work

Philosophical Acts of Wonder in Bioethics.Alexander Zhang - 2024 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 49 (3):221-232.

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References found in this work

As If: Idealization and Ideals.Kwame Anthony Appiah - 2017 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
Belief and acceptance.L. Jonathan Cohen - 1989 - Mind 98 (391):367-389.
Representation and make-believe.Alan H. Goldman - 1990 - Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 36 (3):335 – 350.

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