Advertisement

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 345–357 | Cite as

Illness, phenomenology, and philosophical method

  • Havi Hannah CarelEmail author
Article

Abstract

In this article, I propose that illness is philosophically revealing and can be used to explore human experience. I suggest that illness is a limit case of embodied experience. By pushing embodied experience to its limit, illness sheds light on normal experience, revealing its ordinary and thus overlooked structure. Illness produces a distancing effect, which allows us to observe normal human behavior and cognition via their pathological counterpart. I suggest that these characteristics warrant illness a philosophical role that has not been articulated. Illness can be used as a philosophical tool for the study of normally tacit aspects of human existence. I argue that illness itself can be integral to philosophical method, insofar as it facilitates a distancing from everyday practices. This method relies on pathological or limit cases to illuminate normally overlooked aspects of human perception and action. I offer Merleau-Ponty’s analysis of the case of Schneider as an example of this method.

Keywords

Phenomenology Illness Embodiment Pathology Philosophical method Merleau-Ponty Schneider Distancing Limit case 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This paper was written during a period of research leave funded by the Leverhulme Trust. I am grateful to the Trust for awarding me a fellowship. I would like to thank Eran Dorfman, Michael Lewis, Darian Meacham, Samir Okasha, and Matthew Ratcliffe for commenting on the paper. I also thank Antonio Casado da Rocha, Arantza Etxeberria, Jeremy Simon, and two anonymous reviewers, as well as audiences in Durham, UWE, Bristol, and the Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable 2011, San Sebastian, Spain, for helpful comments on this paper.

References

  1. 1.
    Kidd, I.J. 2012. Can illness be edifying? Inquiry 55(5): 496–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Carman, T. 1999. The body in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Philosophical Topics 27(2): 205–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Husserl, E. 1997 [1907]. Thing and space: lectures of 1907. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Carel, H. 2012. Phenomenology as a resource for patients. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 37(2): 96–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Carel, H. 2013. Bodily doubt. Journal of Consciousness Studies 20(7–8).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Carel, H. 2008. Illness. Stocksfield: Acumen.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Heidegger, M. 1962 [1927]. Being and time. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hass, L. 2008. Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Merleau-Ponty, M. 1962 [1945]. Phenomenology of perception (trans: Smith, C.). New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bauby, J.D. 2007. The diving bell and the butterfly. London: Harper Perrenial.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Carel, H. 2007. Can I be ill and happy? Philosophia 35(2): 95–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    West-Eberhard, M.J. 2003. Developmental plasticity and evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ratcliffe, M. 2013. Phenomenology, naturalism and the sense of reality. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 72: 67–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Toombs, S.K. 1995. The lived experience of disability. Human Studies 18: 9–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Williams, S.J. 2003. Medicine and the body. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Frank, A. 1991. At the will of the body. Boston: Mariner Books.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Brennan, J. 2001. Adjustment to cancer—coping or personal transition? Psychooncology 10(1): 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Thorne, S., and B. Paterson. 1998. Shifting images of chronic illness. Journal of Nursing Scholarship 30(2): 173–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Thorne, S., B. Paterson, S. Acorn, C. Canam, G. Joachim, and C. Jillings. 2002. Chronic illness experience: Insights from a metastudy. Qualitative Health Research 12(4): 437–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Marotta, J.J., and M. Behrmann. 2004. Patient Schn: Has Goldstein and Gelb’s case withstood the test of time? Neuropsychologia 42: 633–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Gallagher, S. 2005. How the body shapes the mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Sartre, J.P. 2003 [1943]. Being and nothingness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Zahavi, D. 2003. Husserl’s phenomenology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Carel, H., and J. McNaughton. 2012. “How do you feel?”: Oscillating perspectives in the clinic. Lancet 379: 2334–2335. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61007-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Svenaeus, F. 2012. Organ transplantation and personal identity: How does loss and change of organs affect the self? Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 37(2): 139–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Smith, A.D. 2003. Husserl and the Cartesian meditations. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kesserling, A. 1990. The experienced body, when taken-for-grantedness falters: A phenomenological study of living with breast cancer. PhD diss., University of California, San Fransisco.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Dreyfus, H. 1991. Being-in-the-world: A commentary on Heidegger’s being and time, Division I. London and Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Svenaeus, F. 2000. Das Unheimliche—towards a phenomenology of illness. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 3: 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Toombs, S.K. 1990. The temporality of illness: Four levels of experience. Theoretical Medicine 11: 227–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Toombs, S.K. 1988. Illness and the paradigm of lived body. Theoretical Medicine 9: 201–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bury, M. 1982. Chronic illness as biographical disruption. Sociology of Health & Illness 4(2): 167–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Lindsey, E. 1996. Health within illness: Experiences of chronically ill/disabled people. Journal of Advanced Nursing 24: 465–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Lindqvist, O., A. Widmark, and B. Rasmussen. 2006. Reclaiming wellness—living with bodily problems as narrated by men with advanced prostate cancer. Cancer Nursing 29(4): 327–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Amundson, R. 1992. Disability, handicap and the environment. Journal of Social Philosophy 23(1): 105–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations