Abstract

The concept of bodily health is problematic for mechanists like Descartes, as it seems that they need to appeal to something extrinsic to a machine, i.e., its purpose, to determine whether the machine is working well or badly, and so healthy or unhealthy. I take issue with this claim. By drawing on the history of medicine, I suggest that in the seventeenth century there was space for a non-teleological account of health. I further argue that mechanists can and did appeal to structural integrity, as a non-teleological notion of form, to ground the norms required for ascriptions of health.

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