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Higher seminar in theoretical philosophy: Amanda Thorell


Date: Thursday 2 December 2021

Time: 13.15 – 15.00

Location: D700 & Zoom

Irrelevant Situations, Non-Physiological Functions, and Non-Beneficial Body Parts


The naturalistic debate about health and pathology has focused on trait tokens’ performances, or dispositions to perform, physiological functions in relevant situations. Roughly, the idea of health and pathology in naturalistic theories is the following:

A trait token (e.g. an organ) is healthy if and only if it is disposed to perform all its trait type’s physiological functions well enough in relevant situations. Otherwise the trait token is pathological.

Here, a trait is a body part with at least one physiological function. A physiological function is a function which is beneficial for survival and reproduction, or which has historically been so. A relevant situation is a situation in which the performance of a physiological function is, or has historically been, beneficial for survival or reproduction.

I will argue that too little attention has been given (i) dispositions to perform physiological functions in irrelevant situations, (ii) dispositions to perform non-physiological functions, and (iii) dispositions of body parts with no physiological functions. Both (i), (ii), and (iii), I will argue, are important to consider in a sound theory of health and pathology.