Health, disability, and well-being

Authored by: S. Andrew Schroeder

The Routledge Handbook Of Philosophy Of Well-Being

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415714532
eBook ISBN: 9781315682266
Adobe ISBN: 9781317402657


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The relationship between health and well-being is a vexed one. On the one hand, it seems obvious that the two go hand in hand. Common sense tells us that illnesses, diseases, and injuries are bad for us. We call these instances of ill health, and we describe ourselves as suffering from them. We worry about having health problems, and we feel sorry for those who do. Parents who fail to prevent sickness or disability in their children are accused of harming them and are labeled negligent. There are, of course, some times we may welcome illness, disease, or injury: the flu may get us out of an exam for which we’re unprepared, asthma may excuse us from military service, and a broken leg from an accident may net us a large insurance settlement. But in cases like these, it seems clear that each health problem is itself a bad thing that merely happens to be accompanied by something good enough to outweigh the bad. (We would prefer to get out of the exam without catching the flu, avoid military service without asthma, and get a large sum of money without breaking our leg.) So, there seems to be a strong assumption that health problems reduce well-being—that is, that they are bad for the people who suffer from them—unless perhaps that badness is outweighed by an accompanying good. 2

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