Health Care Analysis 20 (1):66-83 (2012)

When seeing immoral actions, criminal or not, we sometimes deem the people who perform them unhealthy. This is especially so if the actions are of a serious nature, e.g. involving murder, assault, or rape. We turn our moral evaluation into an evaluation about health and illness. This tendency is partly supported by some diagnoses found in the DMS-IV, such as Antisocial personality disorder, and the ICD-10, such as Dissocial personality disorder. The aim of the paper is to answer the question: How analytically sound is the inclusion of morality into a theory of health? The holistic theory of Lennart Nordenfelt is used as a starting point, and it is used as an example of a theory where morality and health are conceptually distinct categories. Several versions of a pluralistic holistic theory are then discussed in order to see if, and if so, how, morality can be conceptually related to health. It is concluded that moral abilities (and dispositions) can be seen as being part of the individual’s health. It is harder to incorporate moral virtues and moral actions into such a theory. However, if immoral actions “cluster” in an individual, and are of a severe kind, causing serious harm to other people, it is more likely that the person, for those reasons only, be deemed unhealthy.
Keywords Holistic theory  Immoral actions  Moral abilities  Theory of health  Virtues
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10728-011-0172-1
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,355
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Health as a Theoretical Concept.Christopher Boorse - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (4):542-573.
Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics.L. W. Sumner - 1996 - Oxford University Press.
The Elements of Moral Philosophy.James Rachels & Stuart Rachels - 1986 - McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Health and Capabilities: A Conceptual Clarification.Per-Anders Tengland - 2020 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 23 (1):25-33.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Two-Dimensional Theory of Health.Per-Anders Tengland - 2007 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 28 (4):257-284.
Personality Disorders and Moral Responsibility.Mike W. Martin - 2010 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 17 (2):127-129.
'Role' as a Moral Concept in Health Care.N. E. Bowie - 1982 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 7 (1):57-64.
Morality and a Meaningful Life.Laurence Thomas - 2005 - Philosophical Papers 34 (3):405-427.
John Wilson and the Place of Morality in Education.Graham Haydon - 2000 - Journal of Moral Education 29 (3):355-365.
A Human Right to Health? Some Inconclusive Scepticism.Gopal Sreenivasan - 2012 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 86 (1):239-265.
Public Health and Public Goods.Jonny Anomaly - 2011 - Public Health Ethics 4 (3):251-259.


Added to PP index

Total views
26 ( #441,433 of 2,519,628 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #406,756 of 2,519,628 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes