1Non-commercial charitable organization The Classical Studies Foundation
2 Gamsonovsky Pereulok, Moscow 115191, Russia
This article examines the important issue of how the philosophy and history of medicine influence each other and the need to take account of this when considering fundamental concepts of ontological significance to medical science. The author analyses one of the most significant modern theories in the philosophy of medicine — the naturalistic theory put forward by Boorse. The latter suggests regarding how fully the function of a particular body part, organ, or the organism as a whole, is performed as a criterion by which the organism’s condition can be assessed: whether it is healthy or sick depends on how fully particular functions are performed. Boorse’s theory refers to the statistically typical level of a particular function for a biological species overall, and effectively suggests that functions can be quantitatively assessed. The functionalist approach has always been extremely important to the development of medical theory and practice. The author notes that Boorse’s theory has a strong ontological connection to the teleological tradition in the history of medicine, first clearly expressed by Galen. The link between Boorse’s ideas and Galen’s views is substantial, but, apparently, no one, not even Boorse himself, has previously recognised it. The author asks whether it is possible to put forward a convincing modern philosophical theory of an applied science such as medicine while ignoring its history.
Keywords: history of medicine, philosophy of medicine, naturalistic theory, Galen, Christopher Boorse, teleology, functionalism