Journal Article

Paracetamol, Poison, and Polio: Why Boorse's Account of Function Fails to Distinguish Health and Disease

Elselijn Kingma

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 61, issue 2, pages 241-264
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online August 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axp034
Paracetamol, Poison, and Polio: Why Boorse's Account of Function Fails to Distinguish Health and Disease

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Christopher Boorse's Bio Statistical Theory (BST) defines health as the absence of disease, and disease as the adverse departure from normal species functioning. This paper presents a two-pronged problem for this account. First I demonstrate that, in order to accurately account for dynamic physiological functions, Boorse's account of normal function needs to be modified to index functions against situations. I then demonstrate that if functions are indexed against situations, the BST can no longer account for diseases that result from specific environmental factors. The BST is impaled on either horn of this dilemma and therefore must be dismissed. 1

A More Sophisticated Version of the BST 1.1

Normal function

1.2

Health as a quantitative normal function

1.3

Dispositional function

1.4

Situation-specific function

1.5

Summary and justification

2

An Inescapable Problem 2.1

Harmful environments and situation-specific diseases

2.2

A detailed example

2.3

Two possible replies refuted

2.4

Conclusion of Section 2

3

Potential Ways out of the Dilemma 3.1

Distinguishing between harmful and normal situations

3.2

First solution: Statistically abnormal environments 3.2.1

Rare non-harmful environments

3.2.2

Harmful non-rare environments

3.3

Second solution: Adverse environments

3.4

Third solution: Non-natural environments

3.5

Interim conclusion and diagnosis

3.6

Abusing the function concept?

4

The BST Refuted 4.1

A central tension

4.2

Differences with previous arguments

4.3

Conclusion

Journal Article.  9673 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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