Illness : Art of Living
What is illness? Is it a physiological dysfunction, a social label, or a way of experiencing the world? How do the physical, social and emotional worlds of a person change when they become ill? And can there be well-being within illness? In this remarkable and thought-provoking book, Havi Carel explores these questions by weaving together the personal story of her own serious illness with insights and reflections drawn from her work as a philosopher.
Carel shows how the concepts and language used to describe illness today are inappropriate and misleading. Too often illness is viewed as a localised biological dysfunction while ignoring the actual experience of the ill person, their fears, their hopes, the way they interact with others and, ultimately, experience life. By focusing on the impact of illness on the ill person’s life and reflecting on the experience of illness as lived from within, Carel shows how illness is a life-changing process rather than a limited physiological problem.
Carel’s fresh approach to illness raises some uncomfortable questions about how we all – whether healthcare professionals or not – view the ill and challenges us to become more thoughtful. Illness unravels the tension between the universality of illness and its intensely private, often lonely, nature. It offers a new way of looking at a matter that affects every one of us. For those who are ill, it offers insights on our ability to remain happy within the constraints of illness.
"One of the most profoundly moving (as well as academically worthwhile) books I have had the pleasure (if that is the correct word) to read. The book will be a useful addition on reading lists for modules that examine illness and disability and death and dying and it has the potential to generate excellent discussions about how both the individual and society deal with illness and disability." – Sue Child, Times Higher Education Supplement
"A thoroughly readable, engaging book which should be warmly welcomed, not only for the personal nature of the writing, but for its ambition to draw on the insights of philosophers to improve the lives of ill people. It is a truly commendable effort which showcases the practical relevance of philosophy by applying it to the concrete situation of illness. Illness reflects the distinctly Epicurean idea of philosophy as 'medicine for the soul'." – The Philosophical Quarterly
"This book achieves something rare among works of philosophy: it speaks with a heartfelt directness that instantly engenders an intimate connection between author and reader. It demands a level of personal engagement, both emotional and self-reflective, that is at times hard to bear, as the author courageously and persistently lays before us the painful details of her experiences of being ill and shares with us the philosophical insights that those experiences have informed or inspired. Despite its profoundly unsettling subject-matter, the book is eminently readable and engrossing; it exhibits a depth of humanity that is sadly lacking in much of the increasingly technical and jargon-laden products of contemporary philosophical discourse, and constitutes a vivid testament to the possibility of philosophical optimism in the face of potentially crushing adversity." – International Journal of Philosophical Studies
"This book offers an important contribution to the ongoing project of the phenomenology of illness, and offers a powerful argument for the inclusion of applied phenomenology in medical and healthcare training. One of the main strengths of this book is that it forces you to think, and to think philosophically. Carel neatly lifts philosophy off the page, and places it out there like a talisman in our everyday life. The book deserves to be read widely by the public, and I would suggest needs to be read widely by clinical practitioners as a point of reference for their own practice." – Diane E. Pitt, Metapsychology
"Illness offers us something that we all need to read and think about . . . If I were to write a book about illness, I would want it to be just like this one." – Lorna Hallahan, Arena
"A masterpiece. Moving seamlessly between an unsparingly honest personal narrative and philosophical reflections on our condition as embodied subjects, Havi Carel has fashioned a uniquely authentic account of the lived experience of illness. It should be read – and re-read – by everyone who is professionally involved with illness, who is ill, or is likely to become ill; which is to say, by all of us." – Raymond Tallis
"A genuinely important philosophical work. Carel succeeds in offering a wide-ranging, original, wholly convincing and quite beautiful account of the phenomenology of illness. This is a remarkably insightful book about what it is to be human and how to live. Anybody who cares about who they are and how they live ought to read it." – Matthew Ratcliffe, Professor of Philosophy, University of Durham
"A tremendous achievement, as well as being a very moving personal document." – Christopher Bertram, Professor of Social and Political Philosophy, University of Bristol
Havi Carel is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at UWE, Bristol.
1. The body in illness
2. The social world
3. Illness as dis-ability and health within illness
4. Fearing death
5. Living in the present