In the late 1720s and early 1730s, Christian Wolff writes a series of short treatises on general medical concepts such as health, disease, cause of disease, symptom, etc. The paper makes the claim that these texts should be considered as a pioneering attempt at developing a systematic philosophy of medicine based on metaphysical and epistemological investigations on medical concepts, doctrines, and practices. The main focus is on Wolff’s analysis of the concepts of health and disease in functional terms and its connection to his teleological characterization of both natural and artificial machines. This also explains Wolff’s use of the normatively loaded concepts of fitness and nature to clarify the distinction between health as good functioning and disease as dysfunction. The conclusion is that Wolff’s mechanist view of living bodies and his realism about biological functions are just one side of the coin; the other is his commitment to a normative view of the human body’s nature and purposes.

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Journal of the History of Metaphysics

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Print ISSN: 1379-2547 Online ISSN: 2295-9033

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