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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 35, 2019

Health, Well-Being, and Society

Matthew R. Silliman
Pages 115-128
DOI: 10.5840/socphiltoday2019102166

Staying Well in Heraclitus’s River

This philosophical dialogue explores some of the barriers to an adequate definition of general health, encompassing physical, social, and mental/emotional well-being. Many of the putative obstacles to such a definition—concerns about subjectivity, cultural difference, marginal cases, etc.—prove to be chimerical once the characters take seriously the Peircean insight that truth-claims methodologically grounded in people’s lives, experiences, and conversations need not be apodictic to be useful. Drawing on Canguilhem and others, the characters critically discuss a proposed definition of health: a dynamic equilibrium by which a human being thrives in relation to its situation. Although they do not manage to resolve all of this definition’s difficulties, or all of their differences, their interaction in some ways models the ongoing task of inquiry.

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