Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 209–219

Sensibility and clinical understanding

Scientific Contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s11019-007-9113-z

Cite this article as:
Nortvedt, P. Med Health Care Philos (2008) 11: 209. doi:10.1007/s11019-007-9113-z


This paper argues that there is a dimension of human consciousness which allows for a pre-intentional and non-cognitive intuition of sensibility. A sensibility which allows for the vulnerability of the human other is by nature characterized by passivity and receptivity. Moreover, sensibility invokes the significance of relating to the human other in an affective way of being touched by his or her pain and suffering. This capacity of being distressed by the distress of another person opens up for ethical responsibility and even in a fundamental sense is a presupposition for full-fledged clinical knowledge in medical care and health care.


affectclinical sensitivitycognitionemotionethicsLevinasphenomenologysensibility

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine, Section for Medical EthicsUniversity of OsloOsloNorway