The failure of Western medicine to deal with many of the problems it is currently facing has led to an awareness of the need for a fundamental reappraisal. The way in which medical concepts derived from the nineteenth century have brought technical medical advances in this century and the alliances that medicine has made with statistics and more recently the social sciences, have prevented a questioning of medicine's underlying assumptions. Thus, despite a number of critical initiatives from both within and outside medicine, there has been no coherent development to seriously confront the question 'what is medicine?'. It is suggested that the basis for such a development depends on the return to a philosophical questioning of our conceptual understanding of disease, a subject which has largely been ignored during the past hundred years.
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