Boorse’s Theory of Disease: (Why) Do Values Matter?

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 43 (4):421-438 (2018)
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There has been much debate about whether the concept of disease articulated in Boorse’s biostatistical theory is value-neutral or value-laden. Here, I want to examine whether this debate matters. I suggest that there are two basic respects in which value-ladenness might be important: it could threaten either scientific legitimacy or moral permissibility. I argue that value-ladenness does not threaten the scientific legitimacy of our disease-concept because the concept makes little difference to the formulation and testing of scientific hypotheses. Likewise, even if our disease-concept is value-laden, this does not show it is morally impermissible. To determine its permissibility, we must regard it as a tool to structure social institutions. Seen in that way, whether our disease-concept is morally permissible is a consequentialist matter and depends exquisitely on unanswered empirical questions.



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Brent Kious
University of Utah

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