Health and disease as practical concepts: exploring function in context-specific definitions

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 25 (1):131-140 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


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.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 83,944

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Concepts Of Health And Disease.Antony G. N. Flew (ed.) - 1981 - Reading: Addison-Wesley.
Can Evidence-Based Medicine Implicitly Rely on Current Concepts of Disease or Does It Have to Develop Its Own Definition?Andreas Gerber - 2007 - Journal of Medical Ethics: The Journal of the Institute of Medical Ethics 33 (7):394-399.
Re-evaluating Concepts of Biological Function in Clinical Medicine: Towards a New Naturalistic Theory of Disease.Benjamin Chin-Yee & Ross E. G. Upshur - 2017 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics: Philosophy of Medical Research and Practice 38 (4):245-264.
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.
What is a genetic cause? The example of Alzheimer’s Disease.Wim Dekkers & Marcel Olde Rikkert - 2006 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 9 (3):273-284.
What Is a Genetic Cause? The Example of Alzheimer's Disease.Wim Dekkers & Marcel Olde Rikkert - 2006 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy: A European Journal 9 (3):273-284.
On the triad disease, illness and sickness.Bjørn Hofmann - 2002 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 27 (6):651 – 673.


Added to PP

19 (#621,535)

6 months
4 (#199,280)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

References found in this work

Philosophical investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein & G. E. M. Anscombe - 1953 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 161:124-124.
Health as a theoretical concept.Christopher Boorse - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (4):542-573.
Which Concepts Should We Use?: Metalinguistic Negotiations and The Methodology of Philosophy.David Plunkett - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (7-8):828-874.
A Second Rebuttal On Health.Christopher Boorse - 2014 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 39 (6):683-724.

View all 31 references / Add more references