A Rebuttal on Health

  • Christopher Boorse
Part of the Biomedical Ethics Reviews book series (BER)


Twenty years ago, in four papers,1 I offered a unified descriptive analysis of health, disease, and function. In recent philosophy of medicine, these papers are often treated as a standard defense of one pole on the spectrum of views about health: the extreme view that, at least at the theoretical foundation ofmodern Western medicine, health and disease are value-free scientific concepts. Theoretical health, I argued, is the absence of disease; disease is only statistically species-subnormal biological part-function; therefore, the classification of human states as healthy or diseased is an objective matter, to be read off the biological facts of nature without need of value judgments. Let us refer to this general position as “naturalism”—the opposite of normativism, the view that health judgments are or include value judgments. Following Nordenfelt (1987), let me call my specific naturalist theory the “biostatistical theory (BST),” a name emphasizing that the analysis rests on the concepts of biological function and statistical normality.2


Unwanted Pregnancy Individual Survival Premenstrual Syndrome Statistical Normality Disease Concept 
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  • Christopher Boorse

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