François Pellet

PhD Student


  • Since 2015:
    PhD at the Department of Philosophy, University of Münster, Germany
  • 2013 - 2015:
    Master of Arts in Philosophy with Specialization in Philosophy of Science at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2010 - 2013:
    Bachelor of Arts in Latin Language and Literature and Philosophy at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Work Experience

  • Since 2015:
    Scientific Collaborator (Wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft) of Prof. Dr. Ulrich Krohs, Department of Philosophy, University of Münster, Germany
  • 2013 - 2014:
    Auxiliary of Research and Teaching (ARE) of Prof. Kevin Mulligan, Department of Philosophy, University of Geneva, Switzerland


  • Prof. Dr. Ulrich Krohs, Department of Philosophy, University of Münster
  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Peter Hucklenbroich, Institute for Medical Ethics, History and Philosophy of Medicine, University of Münster

Research Interests

  • History and Philosophy of General Science
  • History and Philosophy of Special Sciences (Biology, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Computer Science)
  • History and Philosophy of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
  • Metaphysics and Ontology
  • Philosophy of Mind

PhD Project Description

The Concept of Disease in Individualized Medicine

The concepts of health and disease are notoriously difficult do define. Most problematic is the establishment of an evaluative norm that demarcates diseased from healthy conditions. Since there might be an impairment of organismic functions without subjectively feeling ill, the norm needs to be objective or at least to have an objective component. Quite often, the concepts of health and disease are therefore hooked up to theoretical concepts of function and dysfunction. The norm, then, is usually read from data about what is standard within a population, be the population of present individuals or one of our predecessors during evolutionary processes. Medicine, however, aims increasingly at the diagnosis and treatment of individuals according to their specific physiological needs, which may deviate from average needs. It may even happen that a regulatory state that is a diseased condition for one patient may be perfectly fine for another. Consequently, the concepts of dysfunction and of disease must be reconsidered in the light of the goals of individualized medicine. Population level averages might still be used as indicators for diseased conditions, but they are no longer decisive. The norm for demarcating disease in individualized medicine must itself be individualized.
This dissertation project investigates the potential of various concepts of function and dysfunction to yield a basis for concepts of disease in individualized medicine. Possible candidate concepts for this comparative assessment are the statistical concept of health (Boorse 1977), etiological concepts of proper functions (Millikan 1984 and 1989; Neander 1991), the concept of function as based on the individual design on an organism (Krohs
2009 and 2011), and concepts of function based on systemic closure (Mossio et al. 2009; Saborido et al. 2011).
The project thus inquires into the different options of defining non-collective physiological norms. It seems plausible that this requires a replacement of statistical and population measures by reference to the individual genome and to individual regulatory states. However, the goal of the project is not to develop a homogeneous definition of disease, which will hardly be achievable even in the long run. In contrast, it shall account for the variety of concepts of disease in medicine. The project will have a strong empirical aspect in relating the different theoretical concepts to actual uses of the concept of disease and on the change that is observable in medicine itself on the advent of individualized medicine. It will be run in close collaboration with biologists, bio-informaticians and physicians. By clarifying the relations between the concepts in question it will help to further develop the conceptual basis of individualized medicine.


  • Boorse C (1977) Health as a theoretical concept. Philosophy of Science 44: 542-573.
  • Krohs U (2009) Functions as based on a concept of general design. Synthese 166: 69–89.
  • Krohs U (2011) Functions and fixed types: Biological and other functions in the post-adaptationist era. Applied Ontology 6: 125–139.
  • Millikan RG (1984) Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories: New Foundations for Realism. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Millikan RG (1989) In defense of proper functions. Philosophy of Science 56: 288–302.
  • Mossio M, Saborido C & Moreno A (2009) An organizational account of biological functions. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60: 813–841.
  • Neander K (1991) Functions as selected effects: the conceptuals analyst’s defense. Philosophy of Science 56: 168–184.
  • Saborido C, Mossio M & Moreno A (2011) Biological Organization and Cross-Generation Functions. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62: 583-606.


  • Jung EM & Pellet F (forthcoming) Theoretical Entities of Literary Criticism and Science: What Mrs. Gamp and Electrons Do Not Have in Common. In: van Ingwagen P (Ed.): Münstersche Vorlesungen zur Philosophie. Springer.
  • Pellet F (2016) Qu’est-ce que la maladie? Philosophie und Gesundheit/Philosophie et Santé.