UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


HPSC3028 Philosophy of Medicine

This page provides information about the module.

The module tutor is Dr Brendan Clarke. My office is room 2.1, 22 Gordon Square. My office hours in 2016 are Tuesdays 2.30pm-3.30pm and Thursdays 11.00-12.00pm.

Course description

This module provides students with an overview of the exciting field of philosophy of medicine. Based on case-studies drawn from contemporary medical practice, the module will be themed around eight key topics. These are:

1. what philosophy of medicine is, and is not 

2. discovery in medicine 

3. definitions of disease

4. disease causation

5. models and model organisms

6. scientific pluralism in medicine

7. classification

8. data and evidence in medicine

The teaching will be a mixture of lectures, giving topic overviews, critical reading of philosophical and medical sources, and seminar activities, intended to allow students to autonomously develop their analytical skills. This module has no pre-requisites - usually, about half the students that take it have no previous philosophy experience, and about half have no previous experience in biomedical subjects. That's fine - we always get to the common ground very rapidly.

You can view video lectures for this module on my YouTube channel.

You can also read topic guides - short supporting literature reviews - below.

Lecture 1 topic guide - An improperly short history of analytic philosophy of science

Lecture 2 topic guide - Arthur Caplan and the question of whether philosophy of medicine exists - and a summary of his argument, if you're especially keen.


The module takes place during term 1. See the UCL common timetable for room details.

No prerequisites

This course has no prerequisites. 


Two pieces of coursework. One is a write-up of a class presentation on a core reading (20%), the other is an analytic essay on a philosophy of medicine topic (80%).

No exam

Course materials

The 2016-17 module syllabus is available here.