Can Illness Be Edifying?
Ian James Kidd
Philosophy Department Research Seminar – Thursday 23rd February
11am in room 005, 48 Old Elvet, Durham

This paper defends an edificationist conception of illness, that is, certain experiences of illness can be morally improving. It has three parts. Part one focuses upon Havi Carel’s recent argument that one can be ill and happy, insofar as an ill person can ‘positively respond’ to illness by cultivating ‘adaptability’ and ‘creativity’. Part two develops this by arguing that the positive responses which Carel describes are best understood as the cultivation of virtues, that is, as a source of edification. Part three then considers two sets of objections, gathering around the worry that, if illness is morally, cognitively or existentially valuable, then it should be induced, prolonged or exacerbated, as was claimed by Nietzsche, the Cynics and the Stoics, amongst others. I conclude by defending a modest edificationism concerning illness and identify further avenues for enquiry, drawing upon phenomenology, philosophy of medicine and medical humanities.

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