Philosophy of Medicine (BETH5102)


This unit of study introduces some philosophical questions and debates concerning medicine and the biomedical sciences. It is divided into three sections. The first explores basic concepts and distinctions such as health, disease, mental illness and disability. The second section deals with topics that lie at the heart of a scientific approach to medicine, namely, causation, experimentation, evidence and clinical reasoning. The final section of the course invites students to reflect critically on the preceding section by exploring the rationality claims of non-orthodox approaches, by inquiring closely into the meaning of medical terms, and by taking a broad view of the notion of risk. All assessments must be completed to pass this Unit.

Our courses that offer this unit of study

Further unit of study information


Online presentations plus 12x1.5hr seminars, or fully online


1x1200wd short written exercise (25%); 1x3000-4000wd major essay (60%); participation in seminars or online (10%); online quizzes (5%)


Required readings are available through the unit of study website. Supplementary readings can be accessed through the university library.

Faculty/department permission required?


Unit of study rules

Additional Information

If an insufficient number of students opt to attend seminars on campus, the co-ordinator may choose to teach this Unit of Study in online mode only. Students will be contacted if this occurs.

Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.