“Some say that illness is morally improving, others that there is nothing good about being sick.”

This is a long essay from the online website Aeon (aeon.co) about whether having an illness can be a positive thing or if its always a negative.  The author, Ian Kidd, a philosophy professor, thinks that “we can find a balance between bright-siding and despair.”

Professor Kidd says:

“What I want to show is that illness can be edifying, for certain people – conducive to the cultivation and exercise of various virtues. If this is right, then it is indeed a life-transforming process that genuinely contains some good.”

He also says:  “It would be a terrible failure of empathy to demand that everyone explore the character-building possibilities for illness.”

And one more quotation:

“Empathy is, in fact, the virtue most people lack, according to [philosopher Havi] Carel – especially the obliviously healthy, who take the cooperation of their body for granted. Cultivating empathy for the experience of illness means learning to think about it ‘from the inside’, from within the lived body of someone who is unwell, rather than treating that condition as a mere biological or medical problem. This means trying to see the perspective of a person battling, not only against disease, but also against others’ lack of understanding of its relentless demands – bodily, psychological, emotional and social.”

Obviously, I thought this was a thought-provoking essay.  See what you think!

Here’s a link to the essay:


Being ill, living well
Some say that illness is morally improving, others that there is nothing good about being sick. Can philosophy adjudicate?
Ian J Kidd
November 8, 2016

On the Aeon website, there are lots of comments to the question “What lessons have you learned by being ill?”