Refraining the disease debate and defending the biostatistical theory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Similarly to other accounts of disease, Christopher Boorse's Biostatistical Theory (BST) is generally presented and considered as conceptual analysis, that is, as making claims about the meaning of currently used concepts. But conceptual analysis has been convincingly critiqued as relying on problematic assumptions about the existence, meaning, and use of concepts. Because of these problems, accounts of disease and health should be evaluated not as claims about current meaning, I argue, but instead as proposals about how to define and use these terms in the future, a methodology suggested by Quine and Carnap. I begin this article by describing problems with conceptual analysis and advantages of "philosophical explication," my favored approach. I then describe two attacks on the BST that also question the entire project of defining "disease." Finally, I defend the BST as a philosophical explication by showing how it could define useful terms for medical science and ethics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)572-589
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy (United Kingdom)
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014


  • Biostatistical theory
  • Christopher Boorse
  • Concept of disease
  • Conceptual analysis
  • Daniel Hausman
  • Germund Hesslow
  • Norman Daniels
  • Philosophy of medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Philosophy

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