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PPR.391c:Philosophy of Medicine - concepts of health, illness and disease (Special Subject)            

Tutor: Rachel Cooper
Term: Lent

Course Description

 Are psychopaths evil or sick? Should the NHS pay for the treatment of nicotine addiction? Is it right for shy people to take character-altering drugs? Whether a condition is considered a disease often has social, economic and ethical implications. It tends to be taken for granted that what it is to be “ healthy” can be identified and is desirable. Similarly, it is assumed that those who are diseased or disabled can be diagnosed and require help. In this module we question these assumptions via examining the key concepts of normality, disease, illness, mental illness, and disability.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the module, you should be able to:

• give a sustained critical discussion of one substantial theme or line of argument that is in part or whole constitutive of the chosen topic

• use the resources of small study group to develop their own critical thinking


5,000 word dissertation

Teaching Method:

Special Subject classes run as seminars: the tutor convenes the group and suggests reading but does not lecture. Students are required to attend special subject seminars regularly.

Introductory reading:

Caplan A. et al (eds)(2004)           Health, Disease and Illness: Concepts in Medicine
Carel, H. (2008)                            Illness: The cry of the flesh
Elliott, C. (2003)                           Better than Well.
Reznek, L. (1987)                        The Nature of Disease. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


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