Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 137–141 | Cite as

Interpreting definitions: The problem of interpreting definitions of medical concepts

  • Per-Erik Liss
  • Olle Aspevall
  • Daniel Karlsson
  • Urban Forsum


During the last hundred years medical language has been influenced by scientific and technological progress. As a result uncertainty in medical communication is increasing. This may have serious consequences not only for health care delivery but also for medical science. Disease classification, assessment of the validity of epidemiological investigations and comparison of the results of various investigations are examples of what will become less secure. The purpose of the article is to emphasise a main source of uncertainty — the problem of interpreting definitions. Two issues of interpretation are explored. One concerns the logical status of a statement and the other the function of a statement. It is concluded that the security of medical language can be increased through the elucidation of the logical status and functions of statements making up medical concepts.

accompanying characteristic communication concept defining characteristic definition recognising characteristic uncertainty 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Per-Erik Liss
    • 1
  • Olle Aspevall
    • 2
    • 3
  • Daniel Karlsson
    • 4
  • Urban Forsum
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Health and SocietyLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Karolinska Institutet, Department of Immunology, Microbiology, Pathology and Infectious Diseases. Division of Clinical and Oral BacteriologyHuddinge University HospitalHuddingeSweden
  3. 3.Department of Molecular and Clinical MedicineLinköping UniversitySweden
  4. 4.Department of Biomedical EngineeringLinköping UniversitySweden

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