Explanation of Christopher Boore’s Naturalistic Philosophy

I will now lay-out a typical argument for a strand of philosophy called Naturalism aimed at defining what a disease is. By laying out what a typical argument from this school of thought looks like and analysing some of its premises we should be able to get an idea of the ways in which philosophers can define disease. We will then return to the case study of social anxiety phobia in the fifth section of my essay to apply Naturalism and two other philosophical frameworks but for now we’ll focus on Naturalism and some key philosophers associated with it.

2.1 – Explanation of key concepts relating to Christopher Boore’s Naturalistic philosophy.

Christopher Boore is the eminent authority in this field of study and it is his work which we will analyse firstly. Before we start, I will note that Boore has modified and changed his account of Naturalism so I will focus my attention on what I deem to be the fundamental principles of his argument for disease definition. But before I do this I have to explain what Naturalism is and some of the concepts that Boore uses.

Naturalism is the method of deriving knowledge from purely empirical sources in our material universe. Regarding medicine and disease, it would refer to developing an understanding through observation of the human body and its many structures. One way of achieving this is through physiology. This is the study of the individual structures that combine together to form the chemical and physical functions of the human body. This is a key source of knowledge in Naturalism. Boore uses physiology to justify some of his premises as I will show later. He does this to ultimately show that disease can be defined without referral to normative or value-based judgements. He believes his ‘functional’ argument achieves a value-free criterion.

I will now introduce some concepts that help Boore construct this value-free criterion for disease. The first set of concepts is that of ‘statistical variance’ across a population and how that relates to understanding the ‘species design’. Stastical variance is the method of looking at features of many organisms in a population and averaging the results to come to an overall idea of what the species intrinsic features must be. A species design would be these intrinsic features that could be abstracted from the population wide survey of characteristics. An example to illustrate this concept would be thinking of an animal like a tiger. Boore argues any one tiger you meet in the wild might not have the exact ideal characteristics of P.Tigris due to having to recover from disease and sickness. Nonetheless by looking at a significantly large enough population of tigers scientists can abstract “from individual differences and disease by averaging” the observed characteristics.

Linked to this idea of ideal characteristics that form any one species design, Boore makes reference to ‘functions’ of biology. Functions are essentially how the species design works together to fulfil a goal. He argues that at every level of a species a “goal-orientated” agenda is produced by the ideal characteristics of a species whether that be on the cellular level or on the macro level. An example of a goal-orientated agenda would be the production of ATP by mitochondria in the majority of cells in the body of a human. The specific type of human mitochondria would be the characteristics of our human species design that work to the goal of producing a form of energy for our body. Similarly, the goal of the human heart is to pump blood around the two atria and ventricles of our heart; a larger example of goal-orientated agendas of our specific species design.

Overall, the concepts of species design and function then link together to inform us about disease. Disease is defined as Boore as being the non-conformity of function to the species design. When characteristics that make up the species design significantly deviate from the normal functions of the body then we have something that is called disease. The normal function of the body would be the goal-orientated processes that scientists can abstract from the species design. 

07 July 2022
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now