Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Illness as a condition of our existence in the world: on illness and pathic existence


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
  • illness
  • pathic existence
  • philosophy of medicine
  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • health care

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.