Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 25 (1):131-140 (2022)

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Abstract
Despite the longstanding debate on definitions of health and disease concepts, and the multitude of accounts that have been developed, no consensus has been reached. This is problematic, as the way we define health and disease has far-reaching practical consequences. In recent contributions it is proposed to view health and disease as practical- and plural concepts. Instead of searching for a general definition, it is proposed to stipulate context-specific definitions. However, it is not clear how this should be realized. In this paper, we review recent contributions to the debate, and examine the importance of context-specific definitions. In particular, we explore the usefulness of analyzing the relation between the practical function of a definition and the context it is deployed in. We demonstrate that the variety of functions that health and disease concepts need to serve makes the formulation of monistic definitions not only problematic but also undesirable. We conclude that the analysis of the practical function in relation to the context is key when formulating context-specific definitions for health and disease. At last, we discuss challenges for the pluralist stance and make recommendations for future research.
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DOI 10.1007/s11019-021-10058-9
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