This paper seeks to find different ways of addressing illness as an experience essential to the understanding of being a human being. As a conceptual point of departure, we suggest the notion of ‘pathic existence’ as developed by the German physician and philosopher Viktor von Weizsäcker (1886–1957). Through an analysis of his conceptualisation of the pathic and of pathic categories, we demonstrate how this auxiliary typology may be of help in unveiling different modes of ill-being, or Kranksein. Furthermore, we show how illness plays a paradigmatic role in this type of existence. We discuss how von Weizsäcker's claim of illness as “a way of being human” indicates how such a view of the illness existence both differs from and touches upon other streams of thought within the philosophy of medicine and medical ethics. Finally, we highlight some of the normative implications emerging from this perspective of relevance in today's medicine.
- Medical anthropology
- doctor-patient relationship
- pathic existence
- philosophy of medicine
- medical ethics/bioethics
- health care
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Elin Håkonsen Martinsen carried out three quarters of the work for this article and Jan Helge Solbakk one quarter.
Funding This article is part of a PhD project funded by the Research Council of Norway.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.