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Rehabilitating “Disease”: Function, Value, and Objectivity in Medicine

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


The concept of disease remains hotly contested. In light of problems with existing accounts, some theorists argue that the disease concept ought to be eliminated. We answer this skeptical challenge by reframing the discussion in terms of the role that the disease concept plays in the complex network of health care institutions in which it is deployed. We argue that while prevailing accounts do not suffer from the particular defects that critics have identified, they do suffer from other deficits, and this leads us to propose a new account that satisfies the desiderata for a concept of disease in human medicine.

Biological Sciences
Philosophy of Science , Volume 86 , Issue 5 , December 2019 , pp. 1168 - 1178
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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The authors would like to thank Marc Ereshefsky, Allen Buchanan, Şerife Tekin, Sune Holm, Steve Clarke, as well as audiences at the PSA 2018, University of Miami, University of Oxford, University at Albany, ester Institute of Technology, and Boston University, for comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Scarffe is grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for support of this research.


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