Some General Clarifications Related to Health and Disease


In the contemporary literature about the nature of health and disease, we distinguish between three groups of theories of health and disease, which may be labeled “axiologism about health/disease”, “(mal)functionalism about health/disease” and “hybridism about health/disease” (cf. Ereshefsky 2009; Pellet 2018). These three groups of theories of health and disease are distinguished with respect to the emphasis put on one or both of the two (main) intuitions that we have about what health and disease are: (1) saying that e.g. cell growth is healthy or diseased is making a specific positive or negative value judgement toward cell growth, where the value at issue is intuitively a certain vital (like life) or lethal one (like death); (2) saying that cell growth is healthy or diseased is saying that cell growth is functioning biologically normally or correctly, or is biologically malfunctioning.

While axiologism about health/disease seriously accounts for intuition (1) and explains away intuition (2) (cf. Cooper 2002; Nordenfelt 1995; 2000), and (mal)functionalism about health/disease does the opposite (Boorse 1977; Chin-Yee & Upshur 2017; Griffiths & Matthewson 2016), hybridism about health/disease comes with the prima facie advantage of seriously taking into consideration both intuitions (1) and (2) (cf. Matthewson & Griffiths 2017; Megone 2007; Wakefield 1992).

Beyond the different theories of health and disease trying to further analyze intuition (1) and/or intuition (2), this quick overview of the debate about health and disease already involves a lot of very different – controversial –, and more general concepts: e.g. one might wonder, first, which mode of being health and disease have; intuition (2) seems to point toward health and disease as being natural phenomena, while this prima facie seems rather not the case for intuition (1) (but, cf. Section 3). However, the question remains: “In what sense(s) exactly health and disease can be considered natural phenomena (or not)?”.

Second, one might wonder how we are to understand the idea – underlying somehow intuition (2) – that health is related to normality and disease to abnormality.

Finally, on basis of intuitions (1) and (2), we may ask in which sense(s) health and disease are related, more generally, to functions, malfunctions (dysfunctions too), and (dis)values.

We expect that a more thorough investigation into the different pairs of opposites (indirectly) related to health and disease sheds new light on the nature of, or shall make avoid many pitfalls in future more precise analyzes of, health and disease.

Our conclusion is that the concepts of health and disease are both two natural kinds, if we assume a certain theory of natural (vs. artefactual) kinds; but the opposition between health and disease can be best captured through the distinction between (biological) functions of something good and (biological) malfunctions, or between a certain value and a certain disvalue.

This paper is organized as follows: in Section 2, I investigate the different possible senses of nature and what is un/counternatural, and tell under which sense(s) health and disease are the most intuitively related to, while, in Section 3 to 6, I do the same for other more specific cognates like, respectively, “natural vs. artefactual kind”, “(ab)normality”, “(dys/mal)function” and “(dis)value”.

Some General Clarifications Related to Health and Disease

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23 PATHOLOGY luglio, 2019 - Autore:  Condividi


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