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Philosophical Questions in Medicine

Loss of health is a part of life. Medicine is one means by which this part of life is addressed, negotiated with, or battled against. In this course, students navigate through the many questions surrounding the nature and use of medicine in a variety of historical and social contexts. These questions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. What is medicine, exactly?

  2. Is medicine a science or an art?

  3. How has the answer to this question evolved over the course of certain histories?

  4. Are diseases and medical causes, as typically conceived, mind-independent entities or human constructions?

  5. How do our worldviews and philosophical commitments affect what we observe and what we count as evidence?

  6. What kinds of medical epistemology are possible?

  7. Which ways of knowing should be granted authority?

  8. If medicine is defined as the practice of alleviating suffering, whose suffering should be alleviated and whose suffering is justified by the acquisition of further medical knowledge?

  9. What does it mean, existentially, to lose one’s health?

  10. What should the aims of medical practice be?


In this course, students explore these questions in a philosophical manner using a variety of intellectual resources from philosophy, history, sociology, and contemporary medical science.

Final Class

What have you learned?

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