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On the Metaphysics of Diseases

Smart, Benjamin (2014) On the Metaphysics of Diseases. [Preprint]

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Identifying the necessary and sufficient conditions for individuating and classifying
diseases is a matter of great importance in the fields of law, ethics, epidemiology, and
of course medicine. In this paper I first propose a means of achieving this goal,
ensuring that no two distinct disease-types could correctly be ascribed to the same
disease-token. I then posit a metaphysical ontology of diseases - that is, I give an
account of what a disease is. This is essential to providing the most effective means of
interfering with disease processes.
Following existing work in the philosophy of medicine and epidemiology (primarily
Boorse; Whitbeck; Broadbent), philosophy of biology (LaPorte; Hull), conditional
analyses of causation (JL Mackie; Lewis), and recent literature on dispositional
essentialism (Mumford and Anjum; Bird), I endorse a dispositional conception of
disease whereby (i) diseases are individuated by their causes, and (ii) diseases are
causal processes best seen as simultaneously acting sequences of mutually
manifesting dispositions - this, I claim, follows from the assumption that diseases
should be classified by consideration of both their clinical and pathological effects, and
importantly, events that can lead to the cessation of these symptoms.

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Item Type: Preprint
Keywords: Philosophy of Medicine, Disease, Causation, Dispositions
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Medicine
Depositing User: Dr Benjamin Smart
Date Deposited: 31 May 2014 04:42
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2014 06:48
Item ID: 10701
Journal or Publication Title: n/a
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Medicine
Date: 30 May 2014

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