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


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.


Disease Definition Conceptual analysis Naturalism Normativism Naturalization 



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.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ToursToursFrance

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