Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group

23 January 2020 - 16:00-17:00


  • John Matthewson, Paul E. Griffiths, Biological Criteria of Disease: Four Ways of Going Wrong, The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine, Volume 42, Issue 4, August 2017, Pages 447–466,

Convener: Harriet Fagerberg

Location: Room 508



We defend a view of the distinction between the normal and the pathological according to which that distinction has an objective, biological component. We accept that there is a normative component to the concept of disease, especially as applied to human beings. Nevertheless, an organism cannot be in a pathological state unless something has gone wrong for that organism from a purely biological point of view. Biology, we argue, recognises two sources of biological normativity, which jointly generate four “ways of going wrong” from a biological perspective. These findings show why previous attempts to provide objective criteria for pathology have fallen short: Biological science recognizes a broader range of ways in which living things can do better or worse than has previously been recognized in the philosophy of medicine.