Author(s)Nesse, Randolph M.
Institute for Social Research, Room 5057, The University of Michigan, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI, 48104
History of Medicine
Medicine & Public Health
Theory of Medicine/Bioethics
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AbstractMost attempts to craft a definition of disease seem to have tackled two tasks simultaneously: 1) trying to create a series of inclusion and exclusion criteria that correspond to medical usage of the word disease and 2) using this definition to understand the essence of what disease is. The first task has been somewhat accomplished, but cannot reach closure because the concept of “disease” is based on a prototype, not a logical category. The second task cannot be accomplished by deduction, but only by understanding how the body works and what each component is for, in evolutionary detail. An evolutionary view of the origins of the body and its vulnerabilities that result in disease provides an objective foundation for recognizing pathology. Our social definition of disease will remain contentious, however, because values vary, and because the label “disease” changes judgments about the moral status of people with various conditions, and their rights to medical and social resources.
Nesse, Randolph M.; (2001). "On the difficulty of defining disease: A Darwinian perspective." Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 4 (1): 37-46. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/43231>