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Naturalistic and Phenomenological Theories of Health: Distinctions and Connections

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 April 2013

Fredrik Svenaeus*
Affiliation:
Södertörn Universityfredrik.svenaeus@sh.se

Abstract

In this paper I present and compare the ideas behind naturalistic theories of health on the one hand and phenomenological theories of health on the other. The basic difference between the two sets of theories is no doubt that whereas naturalistic theories claim to rest on value neutral concepts, such as normal biological function, the phenomenological suggestions for theories of health take their starting point in what is often named intentionality: meaningful stances taken by the embodied person in experiencing and understanding her situation and taking action in the world.

Although naturalism and phenomenology are fundamentally different in their approach to health, they are not necessarily opposed when it comes to understanding the predicament of ill persons. The starting point of medical investigations is what the patient feels and says about her illness and the phenomenological investigation should include the way diagnoses of different diseases are interpreted by the person experiencing the diseases as an embodied being. Furthermore, the two theories display similarities in their emphasis of embodiment as the central element of health theory and in their stress on the alien nature of the body displayed in illness. Theories of biology and phenomenology are, indeed, compatible and in many cases also mutually supportive in the realm of health and illness.

Type
Papers
Copyright
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy and the contributors 2013

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References

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14 Ibid., 78 ff.

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31 H.-G. Gadamer, The Enigma of Health; J.-P. Sartre, Being and Nothingness; and Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception.

32 Heidegger, Being and Time, 69 ff.

33 Svenaeus, The Hermeneutics of Medicine and the Phenomenology of Health.

34 Ibid., 78 ff.

35 Svenaeus, Fredrik, ‘Organ Transplantation and Personal Identity: How Does Loss and Change of Organs Have Effects on the Self?’, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 37 (2012), 163172.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

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43 I explore this in: Svenaeus, Fredrik, ‘Illness as Unhomelike Being-in-the-World: Heidegger and the Phenomenology of Medicine’, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 14 (2011), 333343CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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