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Amongst the Philistines?

The proposal to establish a new veterinary school has generated a great deal of interest.  Many committees have been struck to frame a suitable curriculum.  The participants include basic scientist, educators, veterinarians and medical doctors.  The proposal is to use a clinical presentation approach.  Thus students would tease out the underlying pathophysiology using as triggers clinical cases that are exemplars of the problems they are likely to face in practice.  The early discussions are going well, though the jargon used by some of the educational experts is jarring to the ears.  Someone suggests that it would be good to invite a philosopher to discuss the more theoretical aspects of health and illness. 

Dr. Ludwig Van Witlesstein is excited at the offer.  He arrives with a stack of notes and some well thumbed texts.  His shuffling presence and earnest gaze seem quite out of keeping with the sleek, well fed bets and sleeker docs.  His forays into essentialism, nominalism, normativism and social construction are met with stony faces and glazed eyes.  When he begins to wax eloquent on Hesslow, and asks rhetorically “Do we need a concept of disease?” the silence is broken by a horsy snort. 

“This is #$%^$@!$%, pardon my French”, bursts a burly vet from the front row, “We have no time for this.  We are real doctors practicing real medicine.  We cannot hand out placebos to vomiting cats or %$#@^$!ling cows.  That rubbish is fine for family docs or psychiatrists, not for us”. 

Dr. Van Witlesstein is stunned at the outburst, even more by the applause that follows.


This problem too provoked much discussion. Given are some questions that emerged: Does a concept of a disease matter if the patient cannot understand? Why is the concept of a disease relevant for veterinarians? Can placebos be used in vet practice? What do the terms nominalism, essentialism, etc really mean? Is philosophy relevant for practice? Do practicing vets have a different concept of disease?

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