Pathology and normality from XIX century positivism to the contemporary philosophy of science: An analysis of the concept of disease

Dissertation, Nettuno (Roma) Scuola Internazionale di Filosofia Della Biologia (2001)
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The idea of disease as an objective malfunctioning cannot be accepted for many different reasons. “Malfunctioning” or “failure” have a meaning only if the perfect working condition or normality is univocally determined. The differences between a person and any other person are not unimportant and cannot be ignored neither in diagnosis nor in treatment. These differences can be ascribable to three different sets of reasons: 1.illnesses leave irreversible marks on the organic structure, for they modify the information an organism has at least as far as the neuroendocrine and immune systems are involved; 2.there are individual differences in the immune system; 3.there are individual differences in the functional organization of the brain that are not due only to biological causes. Furthermore the subjective perception of the illness itself must be included among the elements that determine the features of an illness. Notwithstanding the presence of the same symptoms and the same tests readings, two people may perceive their illness in a different way, with effects on the course of the illness itself and the effectiveness of the treatment. The idea of disease also depends on the cultural context.
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