Robert Chapman: Towards a Democratic Approach to Health Concepts, King’s College London/Online, Oct. 20, 2022

The Sowerby Philosophy & Medicine project at King’s College London are excited to announce a new colloquium series entitled ‘New Work on the Concepts of Health and Disease’, which will be running every other Thursday until early next year. 

The first talk will be given by Dr Robert Chapman on Thursday the 20th of October at 5pm GMT, on the topic ‘Towards a democratic approach to health concepts’.

Register here:


“So far, the key debate over how we should conceptualise health has been between naturalists and normativists. The former group holds that the boundary between health and illness is a natural one, determined by either fitness or evolutionary adaptiveness. The latter camp holds that the boundary is determined by societal values, and that illness is associated with disvalued mental or bodily states. In most cases – cancer, dementia, etc. – proponents of each theory agree on what counts as an illness. Key worries about each camp relate to controversial cases, and the risks of either wrongful pathologisation of marginalised groups (queer people, autistic people, fat people, etc.) or harmful depathologisation, where recognition of illness is important but at risk of being invalidated (chronic fatigue, OCD, etc.). In this talk I propose that we should move towards a democratic approach to determining what should count as healthy or not, as well as which of our available concepts (illness, disability, etc.) should be used. I argue that this may solve or help minimise key problems associated with existing accounts and may have have a range of benefits. I end by defending the position against several key objections.”

Dr Robert Chapman is a Senior Lecturer in Education at Sheffield Hallam University. They work in philosophy of disability with a focus on neurodiversity and madness. 

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