Talking about Health

A Philosophical Dialogue


This book is a scholarly treatise on the nature of health presented in the form of a dialogue between an inquirer and a philosopher. It attempts to do two things: first, to introduce modern philosophy of health to non-philosophers, in particular to people with a professional relation to health care; and second, to elaborate and specify in some detail the author's holistic theory of health. According to this theory, a person is completely healthy if, and only if, she or he is able to realize all her or his vital goals given reasonable circumstances. This theory is presented by the philosopher in the book, but it is at the same time scrutinized and criticized by the inquirer. Some of the criticisms presented, and to which the philosopher responds, have been put forward in published reviews of the author's earlier works. Towards the end of the book the author demonstrates how his philosophy of health can be applied to related areas, such as the theory of disability, and to modern ethical discussion, such as that concerning prioritization in health care. The book is supplemented with a list of definitions of central concepts and with an annotated bibliography.

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Talking about Health offers a set of conversations that contribute significantly to our understanding of how to characterise health and related notions. Nordenfelt combines subtle philosophical argument with secure understanding of medicine to provide a book that will be of value to anyone with an interest in health care.” in: Journal of Medical Ethics 25, 1999
“Nordenfelt’s theory of health is one of the most elaborated in the field. The book is well-written, the [Socratic] conversations are simple but not simplifying… Thus it can be highly recommended, even to those who are not familiar with the definitional problems of health concepts” in: Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy: A European Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1999
Editorial Foreword by Heta Häyry and Matti Häyry. Guest Foreword by K.W.M. Fulford. Author's Preface. Conversations. ONE On the Philosophy of Health. TWO On the Tools of Philosophy. THREE On Conceptual Analysis. FOUR On Medical Concepts. FIVE Some Classic Definitions of Health. SIX On Health and Normality. SEVEN On Equilibrium and Homoeostasis. EIGHT On the Ordinary Meaning of Health: A Little about Mental Health. NINE On Mental Illness, Responsibility, and Politics. TEN On the Latitudes of Health and on the Dividing-Line between Healthy and Ill. ELEVEN Health as Ability to Act. TWELVE More about Vital Goals. THIRTEEN On Minimum Happiness. FOURTEEN On the Nature of Happiness. FIFTEEN On Subjective Health and Ill-Health. SIXTEEN Consequences for Health Care. SEVENTEEN On the Relation between Diseases and Health. EIGHTEEN On the Paths to Health. NINETEEN On Health and Handicap. TWENTY On Prioritization and Need for Care. TWENTY-ONE On Health Again: Concluding Remarks. Summary of Concepts and Their Definitions. Annotated Bibliography. About the Author. Index.