The phenomenology of falling ill: An explication, critique and improvement of Sartre's theory of embodiment and alienation [Book Review]

Human Studies 32 (1):53 - 66 (2009)
Abstract
In this paper I develop a phenomenology of falling ill by presenting, interpreting and developing the basic model we find in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness ( 1956 ). The three steps identified by Sartre in this process are analysed, developed further and brought to a five-step model: (1) pre-reflective experience of discomfort, (2) lived, bodily discomfort, (3) suffered illness, (4) disease pondering, and (5) disease state. To fall ill is to fall victim to a gradual process of alienation, and with each step this alienating process is taken to a new qualitative level. Consequently, the five steps of falling ill have not only a contingent chronological order but also a kind of logical order, in that they typically presuppose each other. I adopt Sartre’s focus on embodiment as the core ground of the alienation process, but point out that the alienation of the body in illness is not only the experience of a psychic object, but an experience of the independent life of one’s own body. This facticity of the body is the result neither of the gaze of the other person, nor of a reflection adopting the outer perspective of the other in an indirect way, but is a result of the very otherness of one’s own body, which addresses and plagues us when we fall ill. I use examples of falling ill and being a patient to show how a phenomenology of falling ill can be helpful in educating health-care personnel (and perhaps also patients) about the ways of the lived body.
Keywords Phenomenology  Illness  Sartre  Embodiment  Alienation
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