Philosophers have discussed the definition of the general concept of disease, but have paid less attention to the general concept of a “disease entity”. Whereas the former aims to distinguish healthy from pathological states, the latter aims at a distinction between pathological states. But what would happen to the concept of disease if the concept of disease entities were abandoned? An intuition may be that the demarcation between “health” and “disease” would go unchanged. Yet this would lead to a conflation of both functions, namely, of the health/disease demarcation and the Disease A/Disease Z demarcation. This result is a potential consequence of so-called “precision medicine,” in particular, of theranostic approaches that aim to match disease signatures with treatment signatures while potentially bypassing the step of categorical diagnosis. In this talk I present what I call the three models of disease – the disease entity, disease mechanisms and disease signatures – and demonstrate how health and disease should be distinguished for a naturalist philosopher of medicine applying a disease signature model instead of a disease entity one.
Co-Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the Workshop on Precision Medicine: Ethics Politics, and Culture