Pathology as a Phenomenological Tool

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
211 Downloads (Pure)


The phenomenological method (or rather, methods) has been fruitfully used in exploring the experience of illness in recent years. However, the role of illness is not limited to that of a passive object for phenomenological scrutiny. I propose that illness, and pathology more generally, can be developed into a phenomenological method in their own right. I claim that studying cases of pathology, breakdown, and illness offer illumination not only of these experiences, but also of normal function and the tacit processes that underpin it. In particular, I claim that the study of embodiment can be greatly enhanced, and indeed would be incomplete, without examination of bodily breakdown and what I term bodily doubt. I offer an analogy between illness and Husserl’s epoché, suggesting that both are a source of distancing, and therefore motivate a reflective stance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-217
Number of pages17
JournalContinental Philosophy Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank the Wellcome Trust for funding the research for this paper via the Life of Breath Senior Investigator award ( , Grant Number 103340). I am grateful to several people who discussed the ideas in this paper with me, in particular to Tom Baldwin, Matthew Ratcliffe, Michael Brady and Ian James Kidd. I am also grateful to audiences at the Northern Phenomenology Network meeting 2019, York, and the Scottish Philosophical Association meeting, Aberdeen 2019, for helpful feedback on this paper. I thank the editors, Anthony Fernandez and Steven Crowell, for their generous and helpful feedback on the paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Phenomenology
  • illness
  • pathology
  • Merleau-Ponty
  • Husserl
  • epoche


Dive into the research topics of 'Pathology as a Phenomenological Tool'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this