Some ‘naturalist’ accounts of disease employ a biostatistical account of dysfunction, whilst others use a ‘selected effect’ account. Several recent authors have argued that the biostatistical account offers the best hope for a naturalist account of disease. We show that the selected effect account survives the criticisms levelled by these authors relatively unscathed, and has significant advantages over the BST. Moreover, unlike the BST, it has a strong theoretical rationale and can provide substantive reasons to decide difficult cases. This (...) is illustrated by showing how life-history theory clarifies the status of so-called diseases of old age. The selected effect account of function deserves a more prominent place in the philosophy of medicine than it currently occupies. _1_ Introduction _2_ Biostatistical and Selected Effect Accounts of Function _3_ Objections to the Selected Effect Account _3.1_ Boorse _3.2_ Kingma _3.3_ Hausman _3.4_ Murphy and Woolfolk _4_ Problems for the Biostatistical Account _4.1_ Schwartz _5_ Analysis versus Explication _6_ Explicating Dysfunction: Life History Theory and Senescence _7_ Conclusion. (shrink)
Accounts of the concepts of function and dysfunction have not adequately explained what factors determine the line between low‐normal function and dysfunction. I call the challenge of doing so the line‐drawing problem. Previous approaches emphasize facts involving the action of natural selection (Wakefield 1992a, 1999a, 1999b) or the statistical distribution of levels of functioning in the current population (Boorse 1977, 1997). I point out limitations of these two approaches and present a solution to the line‐drawing problem that builds (...) on the second one. (shrink)
Emotion is normally regulated in the human brain by a complex circuit consisting of the orbital frontal cortex, amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and several other interconnected regions. There are both genetic and environmental contributions to the structure and function of this circuitry. We posit that impulsive aggression and violence arise as a consequence of faulty emotion regulation. Indeed, the prefrontal cortex receives a major serotonergic projection, which is dysfunctional in individuals who show impulsive violence. Individuals vulnerable to faulty regulation of (...) negative emotion are at risk for violence and aggression. Research on the neural circuitry of emotion regulation suggests new avenues of intervention for such at-risk populations. (shrink)
Theorists analyzing the concept of disease on the basis of the notion of dysfunction consider disease to be dysfunction requiring. More specifically, dysfunction-requiring theories of disease claim that for an individual to be diseased certain biological facts about it must be the case. Disease is not wholly a matter of evaluative attitudes. In this paper, I consider the dysfunction-requiring component of Wakefield’s hybrid account of disease in light of the artifactual organisms envisioned by current research in (...) synthetic biology. In particular, I argue that the possibility of artifactual organisms and the case of oncomice and other bred or genetically modified strains of organism constitute a significant objection to Wakefield’s etiological account of the dysfunction requirement. I then develop a new alternative understanding of the dysfunction requirement that builds on the organizational theory of function. I conclude that my suggestion is superior to Wakefield’s theory because it (a) can accommodate both artifactual and naturally evolved organisms, (b) avoids the possibility of there being a conflict between what an organismic part is supposed to do and the health of the organism, and (c) provides a nonarbitrary and practical way of determining whether dysfunction occurs. (shrink)
Paul Griffiths and John Matthewson argue that selected effects play the key role in determining whether a state is pathological. In response, it is argued that a selected effects account faces a number of difficulties in light of modern genomic research. Firstly, a modern history approach to selection is problematic as a basis for assigning function to human traits in light of the small population sizes in the hominin lineage, which imply that selection has played a limited role in shaping (...) these genomes in the evolutionarily recent past. Secondly, determining both the genetic basis of disease and selective histories of the various alleles involved may be experimentally intractable. Thirdly, the existence of “selected disorders” is well supported, and yet on the other hand many other common diseases may not reduce evolutionary fitness. In summary, the biological ends promoted by natural selection, as best modeled in recent research, do not adequately ground a concept of dysfunction that aligns well with the interests of human health. (shrink)
In their paper “Is psychopathy a mental disease?”, Thomas Nadelhoffer and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argue that according to any plausible account of mental disorder, neural and psychological abnormalities correlated with psychopathy should be regarded as signs of a mental disorder. I oppose this conclusion by arguing that at least on a naturalistically grounded account, such as Wakefield’s ‘Harmful Dysfunction’ view, currently available empirical data and evolutionary considerations indicate that psychopathy is not a mental disorder.
Michael Ing's The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism is the first monograph in English about the Liji--a text that purports to be the writings of Confucius' immediate disciples, and part of the earliest canon of Confucian texts called ''The Five Classics,'' included in the canon several centuries before the Analects. Ing uses his analysis of the Liji to show how early Confucians coped with situations where their rituals failed to achieve their intended aims. In contrast to most contemporary (...) interpreters of Confucianism, Ing demonstrates that early Confucian texts can be read as arguments for ambiguity in ritual failure. (shrink)
A biological function is supposed to be performed adequately, and hence may fail to do so: this is dysfunction. This raises two questions. One is how to make explicit the way in which function can be discriminated from dysfunction without confusing dysfunction with non-function. The second question is how what is “right” and “wrong” can be legitimated by natural regulatory norms. A function can be viewed as a quality to which at least one variable with a definite (...) set of values is associated. Accordingly, function and dysfunction are the same quality of the same trait, but differ in the values associated to this variable. Dysfunction occurs when the associated set of values does not match this normal state. Biological systems have the epistemic singularity that their existence is the consequence of two distinct causal regimes, the so-called “proximate” and “ultimate” causes, whose convergence defines a system’s prescriptive normality. Each cause imposes restrictive rules that limit the possible ways these systems can putatively exist. When a system is insensitive to ultimate cause, it is determined by proximate causation alone, and hence escapes its own prescriptive norms. In conclusion: The normality of a biological system is defined by the convergence of proximate and ultimate causes. A function is a variable-associated quality whose values are defined relative to the norms of the system. Dysfunction occurs when the set of values of the same variable does not match the normality of the system, which can occur when the system is insensitive to ultimate causation. (shrink)
The way in which we characterize the structural and functional differences between psychopath and normal brains – either as biological disorders or as mere biological differences – can influence our judgments about psychopaths’ responsibility for criminal misconduct. However, Marga Reimer (Neuroethics 1(2):14, 2008) points out that whether our characterization of these differences should be allowed to affect our judgments in this manner “is a difficult and important question that really needs to be addressed before policies regarding responsibility... can be implemented (...) with any confidence”. This paper is an attempt to address Reimer’s difficult and important question; I argue that irrespective of which of these two characterizations is chosen, our judgments about psychopaths’ responsibility should not be affected, because responsibility hinges not on whether a particular difference is (referred to as) a disorder or not, but on how that difference affects the mental capacities required for moral agency. (shrink)
Using a multiple-trial stock market decision paradigm, the possibility that counterfactual thinking can be dysfunctional for learning and performance by distorting the processing of outcome information was examined. Correlational (Study 1) and experimental (Study 2) evidence suggested that counterfactuals are associated with a decrease in experiential learning. When counterfactuals were made salient, participants displayed significantly poorer performance compared to their counterparts for whom counterfactuals were relatively less salient. A counterfactual salience ? need for cognition (NFC) interaction qualified these findings. High (...) NFC participants outperformed their counterparts when counterfactuals were not salient. Evidence for a memory-based mechanism was also supported. (shrink)
It has recently been suggested that delusions be conceived of as symptoms on the harmful dysfunction account of disorder: delusions sometimes arise from dysfunction, but can also arise through normal cognition. Much attention has thus been payed to the question of how we can determine whether a delusion arises from dysfunction as opposed to normal cognition. In this paper, we consider another question, one that remains under-explored: which delusions warrant treatment? On the harmful dysfunction account, this (...) question dissociates from the question about dysfunction—there are a broad range of “treatable conditions” beyond mere harmful dysfunctions. As such, many conditions that arise from normal cognition are also eligible for medical intervention. We argue that some delusions that arise from normal cognition may well fall under the banner of treatable conditions. We examine the practical and ethical questions surrounding such treatment, including the issue of coercive and deceptive treatment options. (shrink)
This paper is a critical analysis of the concept of mental disorder recently advanced by Jerome Wakefield. Wakefield suggests that mental disorders are most aptly conceived as "harmful dysfunctions" involving two distinct and separable components: the failure of the mechanism in the person to perform a natural function for which the mechanism was designed by natural selection, and a value judgment that the dysfunction is undesirable.
Scientists, philosophers, and even the lay public commonly accept that schizophrenia stems from a biological or internal ‘dysfunction.’ However, this assessment is typically accompanied neither by well-defined criteria for determining that something is dysfunctional nor empirical evidence that schizophrenia satisfies those criteria. In the following, a concept of biological function is developed and applied to a neurobiological model of schizophrenia. It concludes that current evidence does not warrant the claim that schizophrenia stems from a biological dysfunction, and, in (...) fact, that unusual neural structures associated with schizophrenia may have functional or adaptive significance. The fact that current evidence is ambivalent between these two possibilities (dysfunction versus adaptive function) implies that schizophrenia researchers should be much more cautious in using the ‘dysfunction’ label than they currently are. This has implications for both psychiatric treatment as well as public perception of mental disorders. (shrink)
An enterprising odyssey might be one way to investigate whether a unique role is afforded to ‘a’ philosophy of management. The question is, first, which philosophy is at stake and what finery such a philosophy might bear. Second, three cardinal questions arise: (1) “What can we say about it?“; (2) “How do we know we can or cannot say something about it?“; and (3) “What is its relation to rationality?” Third, by an old scepticist tradition one may choose tantalising innersubjects (...) to punctuate these questions. In this case, the inner subject will run: “Is pathology dysfunctional?“ A survey of related problems and possible solutions mingled with suspension follows on from this. Supported by appropriate non-philosophical disciplines, it will serve as a crowbar to reappraise the relation between critical management studies and organisational studies on the one hand and philosophy of management on the other. (shrink)
The concept of mental disorder is often defined by reference to the notion of mental dysfunction, which is in line with how the concept of disease in somatic medicine is often defined. However, the notions of mental function and dysfunction seem to suffer from some problems that do not affect models of physiological function. Functions in general have a teleological structure; they are effects of traits that are supposed to have a particular purpose, such that, for example, the (...) heart serves the goal of pumping blood. But can we single out mental functions in the same way? Can we identify mental functions scientifically, for instance, by applying evolutionary theory? Or are models of mental functions necessarily value-laden? I want to identify several philosophical problems regarding the notion of mental function and dysfunction and point out some possible solutions. As long as these questions remain unanswered, definitions of mental disorder that rest upon the concept of mental dysfunction will lack a secure foundation. (shrink)
James Thomson envisaged a lamp which would be turned on for 1 minute, off for 1/2 minute, on for 1/4 minute, etc. ad infinitum. He asked whether the lamp would be on or off at the end of 2 minutes. Use of “internal set theory” (a version of nonstandard analysis), developed by Edward Nelson, shows Thomson's lamp is chimerical; its copy within set theory yields a contradiction. The demonstration extends to placing restrictions on other “infinite tasks” such as Zeno's paradoxes (...) of motion and Kant's First Antinomy. Resolution of such logical-philosophical problems leads to some very general constraints which must be placed upon the syntax of physical theories. In particular, at some scale space and time would appear granular. The suitability of internal set theory for analyzing phenomena is examined, using a paper by Alper and Bridger (1997) to frame the discussion. (shrink)
Christopher Boorse’s biostatistical theory of medical disorder claims that biological part-dysfunction (i.e., failure of an internal mechanism to perform its biological function), a factual criterion, is both necessary and sufficient for disorder. Jerome Wakefield’s harmful dysfunction analysis of medical disorder agrees that part-dysfunction is necessary but rejects the sufficiency claim, maintaining that disorder also requires that the part-dysfunction causes harm to the individual, a value criterion. In this paper, I present two considerations against the sufficiency claim. (...) First, I analyze Boorse’s central argument for the sufficiency claim, the “pathologist argument,” which takes pathologists’ intuitions about pathology as determinative of medical disorder and conclude that it begs the question and fails to support the sufficiency claim. Second, I present four counterexamples from the medical literature in which salient part-dysfunctions are considered nondisorders, including healthy disease carriers, HIV-positive status, benign mutations, and situs inversus totalis, thus falsifying the sufficiency claim and supporting the harm criterion. (shrink)
This paper tries to extricate philosophical education from the restrictions of social and school systems and to commend some independent and subversive views. This is to be accomplished through a conceptual dissection of the term ‘education’. On the one hand, there is education seen as transmitter of the tradition, where to be educated is seen as being able to fit into an established community. There is also another education to which the authority of tradition is a permanent target of resistance, (...) always trying to undermine any educational uniformity. This second history of education, genuinely philosophical, is radically opposed to the history of institutionalized mass-education. However, intention of this paper is not to proclaim this as an "alternative" model, or to build it up as a new mythology. On the contrary, it is being written as a history of continuous subversion. Viewed from this vantage point, autonomous philosophical education is not a subsystem of a social system. This education has itself as a measurement, and always resists the wider community that has accidentally befallen it. Its honor is exactly in this attitude of resistance, in being watchful against any conscription and integration. Understood in this manner, philosophical education is not a useful "implemented" function of society, but is rather its dysfunction. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, Zachary Ardern criticizes our view that the most promising candidate for a naturalized criterion of disease is the "selected effects" account of biological function and dysfunction. Here we reply to Ardern’s criticisms and, more generally, clarify the relationship between adaptation and dysfunction in the evolution of health and disease.
Drawing on institutional and signaling theories, this study examines how environmental corporate social responsibility affects firm performance in a dysfunctional institutional environment. We extend the ECSR literature by suggesting that ECSR indirectly influences firm performance through the mediating effects of business and political legitimacy. Based on a dataset of 238 firms in China, we find that ECSR affects business and political legitimacy followed by firm performance. Moreover, legal incompleteness weakens and legal inefficiency strengthens the effects of ECSR on business and (...) political legitimacy. (shrink)
Written for both theoretical and practical purposes, Dysfunctional Culture discusses how to understand and identify political ideologies as cultural systems. Using examples related to family morality and reproduction, this book argues that belief in individual rights as the main basis for morality is not an adequate response to the moral challenges of the future.
In his contribution to the Journal of Medical Ethics, Joseph Mazor1 makes a logical case, based on the premises underlying his reasoning, for his article's primary thesis: he concludes that parents have the prerogative to determine the ‘best interests’ of their infant son in a circumcision decision. If the facts of the matter were ultimately no different from what he adduces, one could admit the soundness of his argument. But the paper is flawed by some questionable assumptions and grievous incompleteness.First, (...) the author insufficiently explores the profound implications of a serious equivocation in the term ‘circumcision’ that is common throughout the literature. He does superficially reference the article on ‘Circumcision’ in The Jewish Encyclopedia, which describes in detail the actual steps involved in brit milah versus brit periah.2 Despite this general allusion, though, he hardly discusses the matter further, as though the distinction were practically irrelevant. It does have fundamental import, however. Milah is merely a token clip of the very tip of the prepuce, which leaves most of the organ system intact. This was evidently the version practiced in biblical times under the old Abrahamic–Mosaic covenant, before the Talmudic guardians of Judaic ethnic and religious identity proposed a means to prevent Hellinising Jewish men from attempting foreskin restoration by stretching their remaining preputial tissue forward. The rabbis mandated the replacement of milah with the more drastic procedure of periah, a radical surgery that cuts and tears from the penis its entire covering, leaving the glans irreversibly denuded. Unlike traditional milah, the innovation of periah necessarily has significant adverse consequences .Second, Mazor concedes that circumcision might cause a ‘moderate’ reduction of sexual pleasure in the lad's …. (shrink)
N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) dysfunction plays a crucial role in schizophrenia, leading to impairments in cognitive coordination. NMDAR agonists (e.g., glycine) ameliorate negative and cognitive symptoms, consistent with NMDAR models. However, not all types of cognitive coordination use NMDAR. Further, not all aspects of cognitive coordination are impaired in schizophrenia, suggesting the need for specificity in applying the cognitive coordination construct.