Comments on “Concepts of Function and Mechanism in Medicine and Medical Science” and “Organs, Organisms and Disease”

  • Patrick A. Heelan
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 1)


The first great work on the philosophy of medicine is Claude Bernard’s An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine 1 which was written just over one hundred years ago. Bernard was one of the first proponents of an organismic vision of life — neither crudely mechanistic nor vitalistic — that affirmed both the universal validity of physio-chemical laws in the biological domain and the existence of special non-reducible features, physiological in character, of living matter. For Bernard, the body was a “living machine2 not exempted from the laws of physics and chemistry, and a “creative idea” which “expresses itself” through physio-chemical means. Physio-chemical means, he continues, “are common to all natural phenomena and remain mingled, pell-mell, like the letters of the alphabet in a box till a force goes to fetch them, to express the most varied thoughts and mechanisms.”3 For Bernard, then, organs were like words, and individual organisms were like sentences. Here Bernard’s — and Toulmin’s — analysis would stop. Wartofsky, however, would go one step further and say that socio-historical communities of organisms are like languages: diseases which for Bernard and Toulmin then are pathologies of “words;” and “sentences” are for Wartofsky principally pathologies of“languages.”


Quantum Logic Creative Idea Conservative Extension Ethical Commitment Universal Validity 
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  1. 4.
    Patrick Heelan, “Complementarity, Context-dependence and Quantum Logic,” Foundations of Physics 1 (1970), 95–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Patrick Heelan, “Quantum Logic and Classical Logic,” Synthese 22 (1970), 3–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Patrick Heelan, “The Logic of Framework Transpositions,” International Philosophical Quarterly 11 (1971), 314–334.Google Scholar
  4. Patrick Heelan, “Hermeneutic of Experimental Science in the Context of the Life-World,” Philosophia Mathematica 9 (1972), 101–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    P. M. Williams, “On the Logical Relations between Expressions of Different Theories,” British Journal of Philosophy and Science 24 (1973), 357–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 7.
    Ernest Nagel, The Structure of Science ( London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961 ), pp. 401–28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick A. Heelan
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of New York at Stony BrookStony BrookUSA

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