Health as a secondary property – print version finally out

https://academic.oup.com/bjps/article/70/2/609/4102132

Health as a Secondary Property 

The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Volume 70, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 609–627, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axx014

In the literature on health, naturalism and normativism are typically characterized as espousing and rejecting, respectively, the view that health is objective and value-free. This article points out that there are two distinct dimensions of disagreement, regarding objectivity and value-ladenness, and thus arranges naturalism and normativism as diagonal opposites on a two-by-two matrix of possible positions. One of the remaining quadrants is occupied by value-dependent realism, holding that health facts are value-laden and objective. The remaining quadrant, which holds that they are non-objective but value-free, is unexplored. The article endorses a view in the latter quadrant, namely, the view that health is a secondary property. The article argues that a secondary property framework provides the resources to respond to the deepest objections to a broadly Boorsean account of natural function, and so preserves the spirit, though not the letter, of that account. Treating health as a secondary property permits a naturalistic explanation—specifically, an evolutionary explanation—of the health concept, in terms of the assistance such a concept might have provided to the survival and reproduction of those organisms that had it. (This approach is completely distinct from evolutionary and aetiological accounts of natural functions.) This provides the explanation, missing from Boorse’s account, for the fact that function is determined with reference to the contribution to the goals of survival and reproduction, relative to the age of the sex of the species, rather than some other equally natural goals or reference classes.

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Two Ways to Disagree about Health
  • 3 Secondary Properties
  • 4 Health as a Secondary Property
  • 5 Conclusion

Podcast and CMAJ paper: What is medicine?

I’ve just had a paper, ‘The inquiry model of medicine’, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (impact factor 6.8), and an accompanying podcast titled ‘What is medicine?’ These both cover some of the topics in my forthcoming book, Philosophy of Medicine.

Philosophy of Medicine publication date

My forthcoming book Philosophy of Medicine will be available 2 Jan 2019.

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/philosophy-of-medicine-9780190612139

Praise

“The first thing to love about this book is what you can learn from it: what medicine can do even if it can’t cure much, what evidence-based medicine may have achieved and what it may not have, the role of common law and the importance of cosmopolitanism, the dangers of epistemic medical relativism, a value-free definition of ‘health’ and much more. The second is that it practices what it preaches. The epistemic humility and practice-centered cosmopolitanism that Broadbent advocates for medicine characterize his own arguments and explanations. The book is thoughtful, humane, informed, a serious study, both philosophically and practically.” – Nancy Cartwright, Professor of Philosophy at Durham University and Distinguished Professor at University of California, San Diego

“Alex Broadbent’s Philosophy of Medicine addresses important topics that have been largely eclipsed by debates on bioethics and the nature of health and disease. In particular, Broadbent focuses on the core issues of what medicine is essentially and how to make medical decisions. His book makes significant contributions to the field not only by addressing neglected topics with historical and cultural sensitivity, but also through some ground-breaking claims, for instance that the business of medicine is not to cure.” – Thaddeus Metz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Johannesburg

Summary

Philosophy of Medicine asks two central questions about medicine: what is it, and what should we think of it? Philosophy of medicine itself has evolved in response to developments in the philosophy of science, especially with regard to epistemology, positioning it to make contributions that are medically useful. This book locates these developments within a larger framework, suggesting that much philosophical thinking about medicine contributes to answering one or both of these two guiding questions.

Taking stock of philosophy of medicine’s present place in the landscape and its potential to illuminate a wide range of areas, from public health to policy, Alex Broadbent introduces various key topics in the philosophy of medicine. The first part of the book argues for a novel view of the nature of medicine, arguing that medicine should be understood as an inquiry into the nature and causes of health and disease. Medicine excels at achieving understanding, but not at translating this understanding into cure, a frustration that has dogged the history of medicine and continues to the present day.

The second part of the book explores how we ought to consider medicine. Contemporary responses, such as evidence-based medicine and medical nihilism, tend to respond by fixing high standards of evidence. Broadbent rejects these approaches in favor of Medical Cosmopolitanism, or a rejection of epistemic relativism and pluralism about medicine that encourages conversations between medical traditions. From this standpoint, Broadbent opens the way to embracing alternative medicine.

An accessible and user-friendly guide, Philosophy of Medicine puts these different debates into perspective and identifies areas that demand further exploration.

Table of Contents

Introduction
Part A. What Is Medicine?
1. Varieties of Medicine
2. The Goal of Medicine
3. The Business of Medicine
4. Health and Disease

Part B. What Should We Think of Medicine?
5. Evidence-Based Medicine
6. Medical Nihilism
7. Medical Cosmopolitanism
8. Alternatives and Medical Dissidence
9. Decolonizing Medicine

See more and pre-order at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/philosophy-of-medicine-9780190612139