Does a person have a disease or disorder? Or is the person unwell with an illness? Are the concepts of disease and illness distinct? If we have been lulled to sleep by 100 years of Cartesian diktats from the medical establishment, we may miss the point. But if our thinking is super-sharp, we may be able to detect a critical difference.
A prominent legacy of Cartesian dualism, the mind/body problem, causes a split between the “I” that I know myself to be and the physical body that the “I” inhabits. “I” am a passenger in my body. My body carries “me” around, but we are two separate entities. Thus, my body is something separate from “me” and things can happen to it, e.g., my body can become diseased.
The practice of modern medicine is based on this seemingly real separation. But if that’s all there is, much is being missed. Investigation of the illness vs. disease antinomy offers a profound opportunity for improved medical care of people as patients.
The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.