Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group

27 February 2020 - 16:00-17:00


  • Paul E Griffiths, John Matthewson, Evolution, Dysfunction, and Disease: A Reappraisal, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Volume 69, Issue 2, June 2018, Pages 301–327,

Convener: Harriet Fagerberg

Location: Room 508, Philosophy Building

Some ‘naturalist’ accounts of disease employ a biostatistical account of dysfunction, whilst others use a ‘selected effect’ account. Several recent authors have argued that the biostatistical account offers the best hope for a naturalist account of disease. We show that the selected effect account survives the criticisms levelled by these authors relatively unscathed, and has significant advantages over the BST. Moreover, unlike the BST, it has a strong theoretical rationale and can provide substantive reasons to decide difficult cases. This is illustrated by showing how life-history theory clarifies the status of so-called diseases of old age. The selected effect account of function deserves amore prominent place in the philosophy of medicine than it currently occupies.