Vagueness in Medicine: On Disciplinary Indistinctness, Fuzzy Phenomena, Vague Concepts, Uncertain Knowledge, and Fact-Value-Interaction
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionAxiomathes. 2021, 1-18. 10.1007/s10516-021-09573-4
This article investigates five kinds of vagueness in medicine: disciplinary, ontological, conceptual, epistemic, and vagueness with respect to descriptive-prescriptive connections. First, medicine is a discipline with unclear borders, as it builds on a wide range of other disciplines and subjects. Second, medicine deals with many indistinct phenomena resulting in borderline cases. Third, medicine uses a variety of vague concepts, making it unclear which situations, conditions, and processes that fall under them. Fourth, medicine is based on and produces uncertain knowledge and evidence. Fifth, vagueness emerges in medicine as a result of a wide range of fact-value-interactions. The various kinds of vagueness in medicine can explain many of the basic challenges of modern medicine, such as overdiagnosis, underdiagnosis, and medicalization. Even more, it illustrates how complex and challenging the field of medicine is, but also how important contributions from the philosophy can be for the practice of medicine. By clarifying and, where possible, reducing or limiting vagueness, philosophy can help improving care. Reducing the various types of vagueness can improve clinical decision-making, informing individuals, and health policy making.