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

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Many others have taken part; see, e.g., [722]. For mental disorders, see [2326]. See also [27, 28] for a broader framework of the question and more bibliographical references.

  2. 2.

    See [14] and reply in [4, p. 41].

  3. 3.

    See [6; 30, p. 166] for a more elaborate example of this kind.

  4. 4.

    Others have already treated the issue at length; see, e.g., [3538].

  5. 5.

    It is not supposed here that nobody can win, as Nordby argues in [41].

  6. 6.

    See [42] for further details.

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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.

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Correspondence to Maël Lemoine.

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Lemoine, M. Defining disease beyond conceptual analysis: an analysis of conceptual analysis in philosophy of medicine. Theor Med Bioeth 34, 309–325 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11017-013-9261-5

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Keywords

  • Disease
  • Definition
  • Conceptual analysis
  • Naturalism
  • Normativism
  • Naturalization