In the 1850s, "Drapetomania" was the medical term for a disease found among black slaves in the United States. The main symptom was a strange desire to run away from their masters. In earlier centuries gout was understood as a metabolic disease of the affluent, so much so that it became a badge of uppercrust honor―and a medical excuse to avoid hard work. Today, is there such a thing as mental illness, or is mental illness just a myth? Is Alzheimer's really a disease? What is menopause―a biological or a social construction?
Historically one can see that health, disease, and illness are concepts that have been ever fluid. Modern science, sociology, philosophy, even society―among other factors―constantly have these issues under microscopes, learning more, defining and redefining ever more exactly. Yet often that scrutiny, instead of leading toward hard answers, only leads to more questions. Health, Disease, and Illness brings together a sterling list of classic and contemporary thinkers to examine the history, state, and future of ever-changing "concepts" in medicine.
Divided into four parts―Historical Discussions; Characterizing Health, Disease, and Illness; Clinical Applications of Health and Disease; and Normalcy, Genetic Disease, and Enhancement: The Future of the Concepts of Health and Disease―the reader can see the evolutionary arc of medical concepts from the Greek physician Galen of Pergamum (ca. 150 ce) who proposed that "the best doctor is also a philosopher," to contemporary discussions of the genome and morality. The editors have recognized a crucial need for a deeper integration of medicine and philosophy with each other, particularly in an age of dynamically changing medical science―and what it means, medically, philosophically, to be human.