Philosophy of Medicine - PHIL5700

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This course is designed to introduce students to a number of philosophical issues arising from medical research and medical practice. Students will consider attempts to define the following terms – health, illness, and disease – and discuss what rests on their definition. Much medical practice proceeds as though medicine were a natural science. This module will probe the limitations of this conception. The placebo effect demonstrates the powerful influence of suggestion on the body and students will consider its relevance to philosophical ideas of the mind-body relation. Finally, students will consider ethical issues arising in medical practice, such as 'medically assisted death'.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40


Also available under PL596 (Level 5)

Method of assessment

Essay – 55%
Article Review – 30%
Seminar Participation – 15%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Gadamer, H.-G. 1996. The Enigma of Health. Cambridge: Polity.
Gifford, F. (ed.). 2011. Philosophy of Medicine. Amsterdam: North-Holland.
Howick, J. 2011. The Philosophy of Evidence-based Medicine. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Marcum, J. A. 2008. An Introductory Philosophy of Medicine Humanising Modern Medicine. Dordrecht: Springer.
Pellegrino, E. 2008. The Philosophy of Medicine Reborn: A Pellegrino Reader. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 6 students will be able to:

Outline rival accounts, comprehensive and systematic understanding of their relative strengths and weaknesses, of the following concepts: health, disease, placebos, evidence and diagnosis, and the mind-body relation in the context of medicine;
Show deep and systematic understanding of phenomenological approaches to medicine;
Outline and show deep and systematic understanding of rival positions on one medically-related ethical issue, such as medically-assisted death.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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