CLA Hale Lecture Series

Thursday, March 8th

4:00 – 5:30 pm

Campus Center

Bamboo Room 2610


Russell Powell

Boston University

Department of Philosophy


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

Despite several decades of discussion and debate, the concept of disease remains hotly contested. There is no consensus among medical theorists, ethicists or practitioners as to which of the three dominant accounts of disease in the literature is preferable and why. Due to a number of widely discussed problems associated with each account, some theorists argue that the concept of disease is beyond repair and thus recommend eliminating it entirely. Given the severity of this proposal, it is incumbent upon disease theorists to answer the eliminativist challenge. In this paper, I examine some widely cited criticisms of naturalist, normative, and hybrid accounts of ‘disease,’ and argue that although standard accounts are in need of refinement, they do not suffer from the particular problems that many critics have identified. Furthermore, I contend that the problems these accounts do suffer from do not warrant purging the disease concept from our medical vocabulary, given the significant epistemic and ethical costs of doing so. I positively reframe and defend a thickly normative hybrid account of disease in the context of healthcare institutions that I believe places the hybrid theory, and objectivist approaches to disease more broadly, on stronger theoretical footing.


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Event Snapshot
When and Where
Thursday, March 8, 2018
4:00 PM-5:30 PM
Bamboo Room, 2610

Open to the Public

Interpreter Requested