The Royal Institute of Philosophy public lecture:

'Illness as Transformation' - Dr Havi Carel

Part of the annual Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture series.

Speaker's Biography:

Dr Havi Carel is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Bristol and also teaches at Bristol Medical School. She is currently a British Academy Fellow, writing on a monograph for Oxford University Press, provisionally entitled Phenomenology of Illness. Her research examines the experience of illness and of receiving healthcare. She has written on the embodied experience of illness, wellbeing within illness and patient-physician communication in the Lancet, BMJ, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, Philosophia and in edited collections.

She is the author of Illness (Acumen 2008), shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize, and of Life and Death in Freud and Heidegger (Rodopi 2006). She is the co-editor of Health, Illness and Disease (Acumen 2012) and of What Philosophy Is (Continuum 2004). She also uses film in teaching and has co-edited a volume entitled New Takes in Film-Philosophy (Palgrave 2010). She recently co-edited a special issue of Philosophy on ‘Human Experience and Nature’ (Cambridge University Press 2013).

In 2009-11 Havi led an AHRC-funded project on the concepts of health, illness and disease and in 2011-12 she was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship for a project entitled ‘The Lived Experience of Illness’. She currently holds a British Academy Fellowship.

For more information:

Abstract of Carel's RIP lecture:

Although it is a life-changing dramatic event that nearly all humans experience, the experience of illness has not been studied philosophically for very long. This lecture will examine the philosophical dimensions of illness, asking: how does illness change one’s life? What happens to the experience of space, time, the social world in illness? How do our goals, projects, and self-understanding change when we become ill? Is illness necessarily incompatible with happiness?

I will use a phenomenological approach in order to illuminate the first-person experience of illness, as well as the experience of providing healthcare. Such an approach gives the body a central role and acknowledges the primacy of perception. I show how this approach usefully illuminates the experience of illness through concepts taken from Merleau-Ponty. His distinction between the biological body and the body as lived, analysis of the habitual body and novel notion of bodily intentionality are used to analyse illness.