Kazem Sadegh-Zadeh     Medizintheorie     HAPM     Misc




The Language of Medicine

Different types of knowledge are distinguished to show how medical language impinges on propositional medical knowledge. The differences between sentences, statements, and propositions are explained. To underscore the importance of why we should care about our medical concepts and terms, the nature of, and the difference between, these two linguistic entities are discussed.

Medical language is an extended natural language. It has therefore no specific syntax and semantics. Meaning and reference are explained and it is shown that medical language is characterized by vagueness. The nature of vagueness is demonstrated and defined, and it is shown why, in contrast to what common sense would suggest, vagueness cannot be totally eliminated and is a very useful feature of our language. To demonstrate the pragmatic dimensions of medical language, John Austin’s speech act theory is briefly discussed to apply it in later chapters to such central notions of clinical practice as diagnosis, prognosis, etc.

Several types of medical concepts are distinguished (qualitative, comparative, and quantitative ones). Ordinary and fuzzy taxonomy by qualitative concepts is discussed, and it is shown why comparative concepts are valuable and how they are introduced. The nature of quantitative concepts and the method of their construction are precisely explained. As an important class of concepts, linguistic and numerical variables are differentiated which will be used in later chapters. A novel distinction is made between classical and non-classical concepts to demonstrate that the latter have an absolutely "strange" internal structure. It will be shown in later chapters that central concepts of medicine, such as the concept of disease, are non-classical. This is why the concept of disease is not yet adequately understood and treated in medicine and philosophy of medicine.

Methods of how to define non-classical concepts are discussed, embedded in an extensive presentation of methods of scientific concept formation consisting of methods of (i) definition and (ii) explication. The section on methods of definition presents, for the first time in the literature, a complete set of all existing methods of definition comprising: explicit definition, conditional definition, operational definition, definition by cases, recursive definition, set-theoretical definition, and ostensive definition. Their working is demonstrated in the book as they are employed throughout.

This completes Part I that consists of 6 chapters and 107 pages.