Advertisement

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 309–325 | Cite as

Defining disease beyond conceptual analysis: an analysis of conceptual analysis in philosophy of medicine

  • Maël LemoineEmail author
Article

Abstract

Conceptual analysis of health and disease is portrayed as consisting in the confrontation of a set of criteria—a “definition”—with a set of cases, called instances of either “health” or “disease.” Apart from logical counter-arguments, there is no other way to refute an opponent’s definition than by providing counter-cases. As resorting to intensional stipulation (stipulation of meaning) is not forbidden, several contenders can therefore be deemed to have succeeded. This implies that conceptual analysis alone is not likely to decide between naturalism and normativism. An alternative to this approach would be to examine whether the concept of disease can be naturalized.

Keywords

Disease Definition Conceptual analysis Naturalism Normativism Naturalization 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Some parts of this paper were discussed at the meeting of the Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable Conference in San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain. I am very grateful for comments by Michael Baty, Marie Darrason, and Kathryn Tabb, and, as always, I owe special thanks to Elodie Giroux. Thanks also to the editors who have worked very hard to improve my paper.

References

  1. 1.
    Boorse, Christopher. 2011. Concepts of health and disease. In Handbook of the philosophy of science, ed. F. Gifford. Vol. 16. Philosophy of medicine. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Nordenfelt, Lennart. 1995. On the nature of health: An action-theoretic approach. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Wakefield, Jerome C. 2001. Evolutionary history versus current causal role in the definition of disorder: Reply to McNally. Behaviour Research and Therapy 39: 347–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Boorse, Christopher. 1997. A rebuttal on health. In What is disease?, ed. J.M. Humber, and R.F. Almeder, 1–134. Totowa: Humana Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Boorse, Christopher. 1977. Health as a theoretical concept. Philosophy of Science 44: 542–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wakefield, Jerome C. 1992. The concept of mental disorder: On the boundaries between biological facts and social values. American Psychologist 47(3): 373–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    King, Lester S. 1954. What is disease? Philosophy of Science 21(3): 193–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Canguilhem, Georges. 1978. The normal and the pathological. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Engelhardt Jr., H.Tristram. 1975. Concepts of health and disease. In Concepts of health and disease: Interdisciplinary perspectives, ed. A. Caplan and H.T. Engelhardt, 31–45. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Engelhardt Jr., H.Tristram. 1984. Clinical problems and the concept of disease. In Health, disease and causal explanations in medicine, ed. L. Nordenfelt and B.I.B. Lindahl, 27–41. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Margolis, Joseph. 1976. The concept of disease. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 1: 239–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Whitbeck, Caroline. 1978. Four basic concepts of medical science. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1: 210–222.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Whitbeck, Caroline. 1981. A theory of health. In Concepts of health and disease: Interdisciplinary perspectives, ed. A.L. Caplan, H.T. Engelhardt, and J.J. McCartney, 611–626. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Clouser, K.Danner, Charles M. Culver, and Bernard Gert. 1981. Malady: A new treatment of disease. Hastings Center Report 11(3): 29–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Reznek, Lawrie. 1987. The nature of disease. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Wachbroit, Robert. 1994. Normality as a biological concept. Philosophy of Science 61: 579–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Stempsey, William E. 2000. Disease and diagnosis: Value-dependent realism. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cooper, Rachel. 2002. Disease. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biology and Biomedical Sciences 33: 263–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Nesse, Randolph M. 2001. On the difficulty of defining disease: A Darwinian perspective. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 4: 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Schramme, Thomas. 2007. A qualified defence of a naturalist theory of health. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 10: 11–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ananth, Mahesh. 2008. In defense of an evolutionary concept of health: Nature, norms, and human biology. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Scadding, John G. 1967. Diagnosis, the clinician and the computer. Lancet 290(7521): 877–882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Kendell, Robert E. 1975. The concept of disease and its implications for psychiatry. British Journal of Psychiatry 127: 305–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Kendell, Robert E. 1986. What are mental disorders? In Issues in psychiatric classification: Science, practice and social policy, ed. A.M. Freedman, R. Brotman, I. Silverman, and D. Hutson, 23–45. New York: Human Sciences Press.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Spitzer, Robert L., and John Endicott. 1978. Medical and mental disorder: Proposed definition and criteria. In Critical issues in psychiatric diagnosis, ed. R.L. Spitzer and D.F. Klein, 15–39. New York: Raven Press.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Fulford, K.W.M. 1989. Moral theory and medical practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Hofmann, Björn. 2001. Complexity of the concept of disease as shown through rival theoretical frameworks. Theoretical Medicine 22: 211–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Simon, Jeremy R. 2011. Medical ontology. In Handbook of philosophy of science, ed. F. Gifford, 65–114. Vol. 16. Philosophy of medicine. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Nordenfelt, Lennart. 1993. On the relevance and importance of the notion of disease. Theoretical Medicine 14: 15–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Wakefield, Jerome C. 1993. Limits of operationalization: A critique of Spitzer and Endicott’s (1978) proposed operational criteria for mental disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 102(1): 160–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Wakefield, Jerome C. 1999. Evolutionary versus prototype analyses of the concept of disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 108(3): 374–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Kingma, Elselijn. 2010. Paracetamol, poison, and polio: Why Boorse’s account of function fails to distinguish health and disease. British Journal of Philosophy of Science 61: 241–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Wakefield, Jerome C. 1992. Disorder as harmful dysfunction: A conceptual critique of DSM-III-R’s definition of mental disorder. Psychological Review 99(2): 232–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Horwitz, Allan V., and Jerome C. Wakefield. 2007. The loss of sadness: How psychiatry transformed normal sorrow into depressive disorder. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Sadegh-Zadeh, Kazem. 2011. Handbook of the analytic philosophy of medicine. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Hempel, Carl G. 1952. Fundamentals of concept formation in empirical science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Lemoine, Maël. 2014. Forthcoming. Is the dysfunction component of the ‘Harmful dysfunction analysis’ stipulative? In Defining mental disorders: Jerome Wakefield and his critics, ed. Luc Faucher and Denis Forest. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Millikan, Ruth G. 1993. White queen psychology and other essays for Alice. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Wakefield, Jerome C. 1999. The concept of disorder as a foundation for the DSM’s theory-neutral nosology: Response to Follette and Houts, part 2. Behavior Research and Therapy 37(10): 1001–1027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Bolton, Derek, and Jonathan Hill. 2003. Mind, meaning and mental disorders: The nature of causal explanation in psychology and psychiatry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Nordby, Halvor. 2006. The analytic–synthetic distinction and conceptual analyses of basic health concepts. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 9: 169–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Lemoine, Maël. 2013. Forthcoming. The naturalization of the concept of disease. In Classification, disease and evidence: New essays in the philosophy of medicine, ed. G. Lambert, M. Silberstein, and P. Huneman. Amsterdam: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ToursToursFrance

Personalised recommendations