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Illness (Art of Living) [Paperback]

Havi Carel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Illness: The Cry of the Flesh Illness: The Cry of the Flesh 4.8 out of 5 stars (20)
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Book Description

20 Aug 2008 Art of Living
What is illness? Is it a physiological dysfunction, a social label, or a way of experiencing the world? How do the physical, social and emotional worlds of a person change when they become ill? And can there be well-being within illness? In this remarkable and thought-provoking book, Havi Carel explores these questions by weaving together the personal story of her own serious illness with insights and reflections drawn from her work as a philosopher. Carel shows how the concepts and language used to describe illness today are inappropriate and misleading. Too often illness is viewed as a localised biological dysfunction while ignoring the actual experience of the ill person, their fears, their hopes, the way they interact with others and, ultimately, experience life. By focusing on the impact of illness on the ill person's life and reflecting on the experience of illness as lived from within, Carel shows how illness is a life-changing process rather than a limited physiological problem. Carel's fresh approach to illness raises some uncomfortable questions about how we all - whether healthcare professionals or not - view the ill and challenges us to become more thoughtful. "Illness" unravels the tension between the universality of illness and its intensely private, often lonely, nature. It offers a new way of looking at a matter that affects every one of us. For those who are ill, it offers insights on our ability to remain happy within the constraints of illness.

Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (20 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844651525
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844651528
  • Product Dimensions: 20.7 x 14.4 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 324,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"One of the most profoundly moving (as well as academically worthwhile) books I have had the pleasure (if that is the correct word) to read. The book will be a useful addition on reading lists for modules that examine illness and disability and death and dying and it has the potential to generate excellent discussions about how both the individual and society deal with illness and disability." Sue Child, Times Higher Education Supplement
"A genuinely important philosophical work. Carel succeeds in offering a wide-ranging, original, wholly convincing and quite beautiful account of the phenomenology of illness. This is a remarkably insightful book about what it is to be human and how to live. Anybody who cares about who they are and how they live ought to read it." --Matthew Ratcliffe, Reader in Philosophy, University of Durham

"This book achieves something rare among works of philosophy: it speaks with a heartfelt directness that instantly engenders an intimate connection between author and reader. It demands a level of personal engagement, both emotional and self-reflective, that is at times hard to bear, as the author courageously and persistently lays before us the painful details of her experiences of being ill and shares with us the philosophical insights that those experiences have informed or inspired. Despite its profoundly unsettling subject-matter, the book is eminently readable and engrossing; it exhibits a depth of humanity that is sadly lacking in much of the increasingly technical and jargon-laden products of contemporary philosophical discourse, and constitutes a vivid testament to the possibility of philosophical optimism in the face of potentially crushing adversity." International Journal of Philosophical Studies
"A masterpiece. Moving seamlessly between an unsparingly honest personal narrative and philosophical reflections, Havi Carel has fashioned a uniquely authentic account of the lived experience of illness. It should be read by everyone who is professionally involved with illness, who is ill, or is likely to become ill; which is to say, by all of us." --Raymond Tallis

"A tremendous achievement, as well as being a very moving personal document." Christopher Bertram, Professor of Social and Political Philosophy, University of Bristol
"This book offers an important contribution to the ongoing project of the phenomenology of illness, and offers a powerful argument for the inclusion of applied phenomenology in medical and healthcare training. One of the main strengths of this book is that it forces you to think, and to think philosophically. Carel neatly lifts philosophy off the page, and places it out there like a talisman in our everyday life. The book deserves to be read widely by the public, and I would suggest needs to be read widely by clinical practitioners as a point of reference for their own practice." Diane E. Pitt, Metapsychology
"A thoroughly readable, engaging book which should be warmly welcomed, not only for the personal nature of the writing, but for its ambition to draw on the insights of philosophers to improve the lives of ill people. It is a truly commendable effort which showcases the practical relevance of philosophy by applying it to the concrete situation of illness. Illness reflects the distinctly Epicurean idea of philosophy as 'medicine for the soul'." --The Philosophical Quarterly

About the Author

Havi Carel is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic achievement 19 Sep 2008
This book is a tremendous achievement, as well as being a very moving personal document. It is a philosophical meditation on the nature of and social meaning illness, disease and death. It discusses philosophical and psychological literature, Epicurus, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. But it is also a personal memoir, it is about Carel's experience of being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, about what that meant for her presence in the world, about how she appeared in the eyes of others, and how she felt she appeared. It is about the encounter with medical professionals and their detached and external perspective on another's catastrophe; it is about the varied reactions of friends, some of whom couldn't maintain friendship. It is about how to confront the fact that all your assumptions about how your life is going to go: career, relationships, family, old age, can just be taken away. Carel was diagnosed with lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare disease that affects young women, and for which the progosis is about 10 years from the onset of symptoms. The sufferer experiences a progressive decline in lung-function over that time. Life may be extended by a heart-lung transplant, but that's, obviously, a difficult business.

I'm not much of a fan of "contintental" philosophy, because I've often found it obscure to obscurantist. Carel, however, is trained in that tradition and is really good at overcoming the resistance of sceptics like me. She uses Merleau-Ponty's ideas about embodied subjectivity throughout the book to explore what illness is like for the sick person and how powers and abilities that are invisible to and taken for granted by the well person become all too manifest to the sick (or disabled or ageing) person.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional - a must read 9 Oct 2008
This is a book that will challenge your view of many things - how we live, how we face, challenge and ultimately cope with illness and death.

Having previously written a book on the philosophy of death, Carel finds herself in the position of having been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. In a highly readable, yet learned account, Carel takes us on a journey which intertwines her personal and professional understanding of life, living, illness and death.

I would never have thought that I could call a philosophical text a page-turner. But it is. I have never previously read any philosophy, and did not even know the word "phenomenology", and was amazed at the clarity with which Carel explains her, and others', thoughts and ideas.

There is no doubt that health professionals and medical students should read this. It will give you an insight that you might otherwise never have, from the unique standpoint of philosopher, patient and articulate author.

Carel has written an outstanding piece of work. Her poignant descriptions of what she has faced and how she has been treated (occasionally well, mostly badly) in the past few years, by friends, health professionals and total strangers will move you to tears. But the book does not read as a cathartic attempt to accept her fate, and is far more than a personal memoir. It seeks to understand what she has experienced in a philosophical framework, and offers this to others as a practically useful way of understanding and coming to terms with experience of life-threatening illness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Won me over in the end 18 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Speaking as both a chronically ill person and a doctoral researcher in arts and health, I was keen to read this book as a kind of primer on philosophy and illness. I also wanted to see what paradigms Carel (who suffers from a rare lung disease) may suggest via her world of "altered ability" as some of the passages about her exhaustion and diagnosis are achingly and depressingly familiar to me. Can philosophy help me? The reader is in for a surprise with the line the author takes us around her world-view of illness. At least half this book wrestles with death. Before you read the book you may have some assumption that it will be about a soft and reflective view of illness. A kind of tonic. Carel's approach to her illness is augmented by a philosophy that pulls no punches here, which is why I liked it. I only signed on to read about illness! But here, illness and wellness are inexorably linked with mortality. Here, through philosophy we may `learn to die' in order to overcome both our topical maladies and existential ones.

While the academic tone often sometimes comes across as `justifying' academic terms and writing, (when a lay approach would be able to cut many words from the text) it is nonetheless not a heavy book where the reader/sufferer has to slice through a huge thicket of terms in order to get to a basic point. It's quite a short book that many ill people could read. It's 150 pages. It took me three days - which is pretty good given my own cognitive difficulty.

The main argument of the text is that anxiety about our impending death has no rational foundation. Once accepted and lived in the present moment, some kind of freedom can arise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Illness
This is a remarkable account of illness. Everyone should read it. This will be the most important book that you have read this year
Published 9 months ago by Derek Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing, informative and moving read
Being a naturally curious (or incredibly nosey!) person, I have read widely around the psychological and psychosocial aspects of chronic illness, for both personal and academic... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Janejanie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
Bought this after reading the original article in the Telegraph in 2008 when i was diagnosed with a brain tumour at aged 38. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jeannie Brice
5.0 out of 5 stars honest, compelling, insightful, helpful
I read this book very quickly, a sense of urgency perhaps reflected in the subject. It is unusual for an academic philosopher to write a book that is so readable and... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Authexist
5.0 out of 5 stars Positively 10/10
This is a short extremely well written book by a young active academic who finds herself at 35 categorised as suffering from lymphangioleiomyomatosis, a very rare chronic disease... Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2011 by J. Nichols
5.0 out of 5 stars illness
a good book on a difficult subject, one you would prefer mot to have to consider. unecessarily academic in my view and lacking a 'spiritual' dimenension. Read more
Published on 21 Feb 2011 by Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
Excellent and inspiring book. Would certainly help anyone with health anxiety or someone who has battled/is battling an illness. Read more
Published on 17 Aug 2010 by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars Medical Masterpiece
This book has the power to revolutionise how medicine is practised. It is palliative in itself.
Published on 22 Jun 2010 by C. BLEASE
5.0 out of 5 stars Even if you are not ill (yet) read this book! (It is not depressing)
Even if you are not ill (yet) read this book! You will be ill sooner or later and you'll eventually become so seriously ill that you will die. Read more
Published on 7 Jun 2010 by Ransen Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and life affirming
From the perspective of someone with good health - this book made me reavaluate many aspects of my own life. Life is short and a great deal shorter for some. Read more
Published on 9 May 2010 by Mr. David A. Braid
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