Existential Health. Philosophical and historical perspectives

Ola Sigurdson


In this article I strive for a conceptual clarification and con- structive elaboration of the concept of existential health. Taking my cue from the multidimensionality of health – refer- ring to contemporary experience, the WHO definition of health as well as pre-modern conceptions of health – I compare existential health to other concepts of health – i.e. physical, mental, social and spiritual. I argue that existential health should not be seen as yet another dimension of health – not even spiritual health, the most likely candidate as Valerie DeMarinis and Cecilia Melder, two prominent Swedish psycho- logists of religion, has argued – but rather is a reflexive expe- rience of health. By »reflexive« I mean an intentional relation to one’s own experience of ailment and health, including a relation to these experiences as one’s own. My conclusion is that existential health as a concept should be reserved for this reflexive feature of human subjectivity in relation to health, cutting across all other health dimensions, so as not to confuse the conceptuality in speaking of health.

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