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"Evolution, Dysfunction and Disease: A Reappraisal." Prof Paul Griffiths, University of Exeter / University of Sydney

Egenis Seminar

An evolutionary approach to function and dysfunction is common in the broader philosophical literature, but it remains a minority view in the philosophy of medicine. Instead, recent work on the definition of disease has been dominated by the biostatistical view of function and dysfunction. Criticism of the biostatistical view (BST) has led its adherents to embrace increasingly complex versions designed to accommodate problem cases. The theoretical rationale for adopting and retaining with this view of dysfunction in the context of medicine has become increasingly unclear. An evolutionary approach to function in the context of medicine has many advantages over the BST. Most importantly, the strong theoretical rationale of the evolutionary approach means that, rather than assessing this account of dysfunction by asking whether it is intuitively satisfying, we can use it to improve our understanding of dysfunction and disease. We illustrate the advantages of the evolutionary approach with a life-history theory perspective on diseases of old-age.

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Byrne House