Philosophy of Medicine - PL596

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
5 30 (15) DR DN Corfield







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'.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

1x 2hr lecture per week, 1x 2hr seminar per week for 10 teaching weeks


Also available under PL570 (Level 6)

Method of assessment

100% Coursework

Preliminary 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 humanizing 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)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

By the end of PL596 Level 5 students should be able to:

11.1 Outline rival accounts, showing some 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.
11.2 Show some understanding of phenomenological approaches to medicine.
11.3 Outline rival positions on one medically-related ethical issue, such as medically-assisted death.

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.