We wrote this letter a couple of months ago in response to an editorial in the Lancet suggesting that opposing lockdowns was neoliberal. I continue to be surprised by how the world hasn’t noticed that, in fact, extreme measures to combat COVID-19 shift the burden from the wealthy to the poor, who suffer more from the measures than from the disease. It’s a disease that primarily affects the old, and thus primarily the wealthy. This is true even if people who are of the same age fare worse if they are lower down the socioeconomic scale. That is unsurprising, extremely so; what is surprising, and what outweighs that effect massively, is that this disease is so much more dangerous for demographics that are dominated by the wealthy of the world. I still feel that has not been grasped in the global north. So, I’m very pleased to have this letter out. Maybe it will change the perspective just a little towards a more global one.
This Thursday at 11:30am (via Zoom) the @CHESS_DurhamUni reading group will be discussing ‘A Framework for Decisions in a Post-COVID World‘ by @AlexBroadbent . . . please contact email@example.com for the paper and joining instructions #COVID19 #socialpolicy #policymakers
There is also a very good (in my opinion) peace in the Lancet which emphasizes the importance of rate of spread and anticipates public health measures as an inevitability, better embraced sooner than later.
Events like this really make me feel that epidemiology must be much more widely understood in the contemporary world. Debates about red meat do the same, but less dramatically. This is such a stark case. Epidemiological expertise must guide us and basic comprehension of epidemiology – even as basic as just knowing that there is such a thing and that there are Experts in it, and that they are not necessarily doctors – would help so much. Politicians aren’t better educated than the rest of the educated public. I’m not critiquing any particular decision – so far, things have mostly been sensible, I think – but the sense of not knowing could be greatly alleviated. How about just a short module on epidemiology as part of high school biology?…
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.
Recently published with Palgrave Macmillan: Concepts and Causes in the Philosophy of Disease, by Benjamin Smart. A very interesting short book that aims to summarise and progress some of the central recent work in the philosophy of medicine, concerning the nature of health and disease, causality in medicine, the classification of diseases and the relation between medicine and public health.