Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 245–251 | Cite as

On human health

  • Piet van SpijkEmail author
Scientific Contribution


If it is true that health is a priority objective of medicine, then medical practice can only be successful if the meaning of the term “health” is known. Various attempts have been made over the years to define health. This paper proposes a new definition. In addition to current health concepts, it also takes into account the distinction between specifically human (great) health and health as the absence of disease and illness—i.e. small health. The feeling of leading a life that makes sense plays a key role in determining specifically human great health.


Health Disease Illness Feeling of sense Goal of medicine 


  1. Antonovsky, Aaron. 1988. Unraveling the mystery of health. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publisher.Google Scholar
  2. Bircher, Johannes. 2005. Towards a Dynamic Definition of Health and Disease. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 8(3): 335–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boorse, Christopher. 1977. Health as a theoretical concept. Philosophy of Science 44: 542–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boorse, Christopher. 1975. On the distinction between Disease and illness. Philosophy & Public Affairs 5: 49–68.Google Scholar
  5. Callaghan, Daniel.1973. The WHO definition of health. Hasting center studies 1(3).Google Scholar
  6. Cassirer, Ernst. 1944. An essay on man. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Frankl, Viktor E. 1955. The doctor and the soul. London: Souvenir press.Google Scholar
  8. Hegel, Georg W.F. 1913. Encyclopaedia of the philosophical sciences, part III, 1817–1830. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  9. Huber, Machteld, et al. 2011. How should we define health? BMJ 343: d4163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Khushf, George. 2007/2010. An agenda for future debate on concepts of health and disease. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 19–27.Google Scholar
  11. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2001 (1882). The brave science. Cambridge: Cambridge University press.Google Scholar
  12. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1997. Unreleased; quoted by F. Nager, Gesundheit, Krankheit, Heilung und Tod. Luzern: Akademie 91 Zentralschweiz.Google Scholar
  13. Nordenfelt, Lennart. 1987. On the nature of health—an action-theoretic approach. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  14. Nordenfelt, Lennart. 1993. Quality of life, health and happiness. Aldershot: Avebury.Google Scholar
  15. Nordenfelt, Lennart. 2006. Animal and human health and welfare. Cambridge: CABI; Oxfordshire.Google Scholar
  16. Nordenfelt, Lennart. 2007/2010. The concepts of health and illness revisited. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 5–10.Google Scholar
  17. Nordenfelt, Lennart. 2001. Health, science and ordinary language. Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  18. Plessner, Helmut. 1975 (1928) Die Stufen des organischen und der Mensch. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  19. Plessner, Helmut. 1980. Der Mensch als Lebewesen from Plessner, Helmut, Conditio humana, Gesammelte Schriften, (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft).Google Scholar
  20. Schmid, Wilhelm. 2007. Glück. Frankfurt a.M.: Inselverlag.Google Scholar
  21. Seligman, Martin E.P. 2008. Positive health. Applied Psychology: An International Review 57: 3–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Seligman, Martin E.P. 2011. Flourish—A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, London: Atria.Google Scholar
  23. Spijk, van Piet .2002. Positive and negative aspects of the WHO definition of health and their implication for a new concept of health in the future, in: Taboada Paulina et al.: Person, Society and ValueTowards a Personalist Concept of Health. Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  24. van Spijk, Piet. 2011. Was ist Gesundheit? Anthropologische Grundlagen der Medizin. Freiburg i.Br.: Karl Alber.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emergency SurgeryLuzerner KantonsspitalLucerne 16Switzerland

Personalised recommendations