[defined] [taxonomy]

Defining Prosthesis: A fuzzy line

Creating a solid definition of the word "prosthesis" is not an easy task. There are varying views on the exact coordinates of the walls by which the term is contained. These variations result in prosthesis' amorphous connotation. Let us first examine the standard definition offered to us in a dictionary; in this case the Oxford English Dictionary*, 2nd Edition.

prosthesis pro(hook)·sþisis, (Pl. prostheses.)
[L., a. Gr. prosqesij addition, f. prostiqenai to put to, add. Cf. Fr. prosthèse.]
1. Gram. The addition of a letter or syllable at the beginning of a word.
2. Surg. a. That part of surgery which consists in supplying deficiencies, as by artificial limbs or teeth, or by other means.b. An artificial replacement for a part of the body.

Standard Definition
For the purposes of this exhibition, we will look more closely at the second given definition, as the first is concerned with language matters (one should, however, note this connection in discussions regarding the extended idea of language as a prosthesis). This limited dictionary definition, that of medical devices created to replace or restore missing or damaged functions, is what I will refer to as the "standard definition".

Extended Definition
It has been argued that the meaning of the term "prosthesis" goes beyond the mere idea of rehabilitation to the "norm". Some use the term to mean anything which augments one's capabilities. This idea, which I will call the "extended definition" can be overwhelmingly general because it can be argued that nearly everything but the mind itself is a prosthesis.

Taxonomy of Prostheses

Research on artificial body parts is conducted at universities, Veterans' Administration* hospitals, and government organizations such as the National Institutes of Health* (NIH). There are a wide variety of such parts available for the disabled for use in remedying a tremendous array of bodily loss. Current prosthetic systems can be divided into the following categories: