Progress in Defining Disease: Improved Approaches and Increased Impact

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 42 (4):485-502 (2017)
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Abstract

In a series of recent papers, I have made three arguments about how to define “disease” and evaluate and apply possible definitions. First, I have argued that definitions should not be seen as traditional conceptual analyses, but instead as proposals about how to define and use the term “disease” in the future. Second, I have pointed out and attempted to address a challenge for dysfunction-requiring accounts of disease that I call the “line-drawing” problem: distinguishing between low-normal functioning and dysfunctioning. Finally, I have used a dysfunction-requiring approach to argue that some extremely prevalent conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and ductal carcinoma in situ, are not diseases, but instead are risk factors. Four of the papers in this issue directly engage my previous work. In this commentary, I applaud the advances these authors make, address points of disagreement, and make suggestions about where the discussion should go next.

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Author's Profile

Peter H. Schwartz
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Logical Foundations of Probability.Rudolf Carnap - 1950 - Chicago, IL, USA: Chicago University of Chicago Press.
Just Health: Meeting Health Needs Fairly.Norman Daniels - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):278-279.

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