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Unit information: Philosophy of Medicine in 2015/16

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Unit name Philosophy of Medicine
Unit code PHIL20042
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Grose
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This SSC asks a fundamental question: how does medicine know? It uses approaches from the philosophy of science and case studies drawn from the history of medicine to explore often taken-for-granted assumptions and structures underpinning medical knowledge. The unit critically explores the different methods of enquiry used in medicine, and the different kinds of evidence and knowledge they yield. Students will become familiar with key episodes in medical history and with principal questions in philosophy of science and their application to medicine.


1) To explore the nature of medical enquiry and knowledge.

2) To learn to use and apply basic concepts and tools from the philosophy of science to medicine.

3) To gain and develop new insight into the different kinds of method, evidence and interpretation that shape how medical practitioners know.


Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will:

1) Have a good understanding of key issues and standpoints in the history and epistemology of modern medicine

2) Be able to engage critically with their positions and arguments, and offer their own assessment of them.

Teaching Information

10 x 1-hr lectures; 10 x 1-hr tutorials

Assessment Information

  • 2,500-3,000 word essay on a topic drawn from course material

Reading and References

  • Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch, Dr. Golem: How to Think about Medicine, London: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  • Rachel Cooper R. (2007). Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science. Stokfield: Acumen.
  • Ludwik Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979(1935).
  • Georges Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological, New York: Zone Books, [1943; origin. English translation, 1966] 1991.
  • Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, New York: Vintage, 1973.
  • James Ladyman, Understanding Philosophy of Science. London:. Routledge 2004.
  • Havi Carel 2008 Illness Stocksfield : Acumen