Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group

30 January 2020 - 16:00-17:00


  • Peter H. Schwartz, Progress in Defining Disease: Improved Approaches and Increased Impact, The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine, Volume 42, Issue 4, August 2017, Pages 485–502,

Convener: Harriet Fagerberg

Location: Room 508

In a series of recent papers, I have made three arguments about how to define “disease” and evaluate and apply possible definitions.First, I have argued that definitions should not be seen as traditional conceptual analyses, but instead as proposals about how to define and use the term “disease” in the future. Second,I have pointed out and attempted to address a challenge for dysfunction-requiring accounts of disease that I call the “line-drawing”problem: distinguishing between low-normal functioning and dysfunctioning. Finally, I have used a dysfunction-requiring approach to argue that some extremely prevalent conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and ductal carcinoma insitu, are not diseases, but instead are risk factors. Four of the papers in this issue directly engage my previous work. In this commentary,I applaud the advances these authors make, address points of disagreement, and make suggestions about where the discussion should go next.