Philosophy of Medicine publication date

My forthcoming book Philosophy of Medicine will be available 2 Jan 2019.


“The first thing to love about this book is what you can learn from it: what medicine can do even if it can’t cure much, what evidence-based medicine may have achieved and what it may not have, the role of common law and the importance of cosmopolitanism, the dangers of epistemic medical relativism, a value-free definition of ‘health’ and much more. The second is that it practices what it preaches. The epistemic humility and practice-centered cosmopolitanism that Broadbent advocates for medicine characterize his own arguments and explanations. The book is thoughtful, humane, informed, a serious study, both philosophically and practically.” – Nancy Cartwright, Professor of Philosophy at Durham University and Distinguished Professor at University of California, San Diego

“Alex Broadbent’s Philosophy of Medicine addresses important topics that have been largely eclipsed by debates on bioethics and the nature of health and disease. In particular, Broadbent focuses on the core issues of what medicine is essentially and how to make medical decisions. His book makes significant contributions to the field not only by addressing neglected topics with historical and cultural sensitivity, but also through some ground-breaking claims, for instance that the business of medicine is not to cure.” – Thaddeus Metz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Johannesburg


Philosophy of Medicine asks two central questions about medicine: what is it, and what should we think of it? Philosophy of medicine itself has evolved in response to developments in the philosophy of science, especially with regard to epistemology, positioning it to make contributions that are medically useful. This book locates these developments within a larger framework, suggesting that much philosophical thinking about medicine contributes to answering one or both of these two guiding questions.

Taking stock of philosophy of medicine’s present place in the landscape and its potential to illuminate a wide range of areas, from public health to policy, Alex Broadbent introduces various key topics in the philosophy of medicine. The first part of the book argues for a novel view of the nature of medicine, arguing that medicine should be understood as an inquiry into the nature and causes of health and disease. Medicine excels at achieving understanding, but not at translating this understanding into cure, a frustration that has dogged the history of medicine and continues to the present day.

The second part of the book explores how we ought to consider medicine. Contemporary responses, such as evidence-based medicine and medical nihilism, tend to respond by fixing high standards of evidence. Broadbent rejects these approaches in favor of Medical Cosmopolitanism, or a rejection of epistemic relativism and pluralism about medicine that encourages conversations between medical traditions. From this standpoint, Broadbent opens the way to embracing alternative medicine.

An accessible and user-friendly guide, Philosophy of Medicine puts these different debates into perspective and identifies areas that demand further exploration.

Table of Contents

Part A. What Is Medicine?
1. Varieties of Medicine
2. The Goal of Medicine
3. The Business of Medicine
4. Health and Disease

Part B. What Should We Think of Medicine?
5. Evidence-Based Medicine
6. Medical Nihilism
7. Medical Cosmopolitanism
8. Alternatives and Medical Dissidence
9. Decolonizing Medicine

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African Medicine in the JMP

My inaugural lecture, somewhat edited, has been published in the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, along with relies by Thaddeus Metz and Chadwin Harris, and a rejoinder from me.

I’m proud of this, particularly because it’s the first time to my knowledge that this journal has published material on African medicine. It may even be the first publication in the contemporary philosophy of medicine, whether analytic or continental, that discusses African medicine in any meaningful way, or discusses Africa in a non-victim role (as opposed to discussions of unfair drug testing practices, neglected diseases, and so forth). I must emphasize that I stand to be corrected on each of these progressively more provocative speculations, and would be delighted for references which I will happily collate and list on another post.

The paper is about the nature of medicine and the role of cure, which I argue is not the main business of medicine, even if it’s the goal. My respondents, naturally, disagree.

Please let me know if you don’t have institutional access to the paper.