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Amanda Thorell

About me

I am a researcher at the Department of Philosophy at Stockholm University. My main research interests are in philosophy of medicine, philosophy of biology, social ontology, and bioethics.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Measuring Health

    2021. Amanda Thorell (et al.).

    Thesis (Doc)

    This thesis is about the notions of health and pathology in medical theory. I develop a theory, which defines ‘health’ and ‘pathology’ in a way that solves several problems with earlier suggestions of how to define these terms. I call the theory ‘the disposition profile efficiency theory’, abbreviated ‘the DPE-theory’. According to the DPE-theory, a trait token (e.g. an organ) is healthy, roughly, if and only if all of its dispositions for performing physiological functions are efficient enough. A trait token is pathological, roughly, if and only if at least one of its dispositions for performing a physiological function is not efficient enough. The notion of efficiency, I suggest, is reference class-relative: the efficiency of a trait token’s disposition for performing a physiological function expresses a relation between the trait token and a health standard for the trait token’s bearer’s reference class.

    The thesis also examines the most discussed theory of health and pathology, “the biostatistical theory” proposed by Boorse. Both the DPE-theory and the biostatistical theory are evaluated against a number of desiderata: the theory should (i) be theoretically sound; (ii) only use empirical, statistical, and logical terms; (iii) not involve values; (iv) be clear; (v) both account for health and pathology as reference class-relative properties, and account for the importance of integration of different physiological functions for health; and (vi) have reasonable implications. It is argued that the DPE-theory satisfies the desiderata, and that it does so better than the biostatistical theory.

    The main contributions of the thesis are the DPE-theory’s models of dispositions, its approach to defining reference classes, its efficiency measure, and its way of drawing the line between high enough efficiencies and too low efficiencies. Other important contributions concern the desideratum about reasonable implications. It is shown how the DPE-theory contributes to solving two much discussed objections directed towards the biostatistical theory, “the problem of common diseases” and “Kingma’s dilemma”. Further, the DPE-theory is used to illuminate discussions about certain types of conditions for which it is contested whether they should count as healthy or pathological.

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  • Pathology as Reduced Efficiency A Dispositional Approach

    2021. Amanda Thorell. Teorema 40 (1), 111-131


    This paper deals with the idea that ‘pathology’ can be defined in terms of reduced efficiency. I discuss the notion of efficiency in Boorse’s biostatistical theory (e.g. 1977) and Hausman’s functional efficiency theory (2012) and argue that whereas Boorse does not provide a precise definition, Hausman’s definition is not suitable to apply in health evaluations. I then propose a precise definition of ‘efficiency’ and illustrate its use in health evaluations. I also show how the suggested definition contributes to solving Kingma’s dilemma (2010).

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  • Distinguishing Health from Pathology

    2021. Amanda Thorell. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy


    This essay provides an account of how to distinguish between health and pathology of trait tokens in medical theory. It (1) proposes to distinguish between two health/pathology concepts—health/pathology pertaining to survival and health/pathology pertaining to reproduction. It (2) defines measures for survival-efficiency and reproduction-efficiency of performances of physiological functions. It (3) provides an account of how, using the efficiency measures, to draw the line between health and pathology. The account draws, but seeks to improve, on Christopher Boorse’s biostatistical theory. In relation to that theory, the suggested account has the advantages (1) that it defines efficiency and (2) that it harmonizes with judgments in medical theory in cases of common diseases and “normal aging.” Furthermore, the essay argues against a competing idea of how to improve on the biostatistical theory, advocated by Peter Schwartz and Daniel Hausman.

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Show all publications by Amanda Thorell at Stockholm University