The Uncanny, Alienation and Strangeness: The Entwining of Political and Medical Metaphor
Medicine, health care, and philosophy 2011 Aug; 14(3): 313-22
This paper offers a critical response to Fredrik Svenaeus' use of the Heideggerian uncanny to analyse the experience of illness. It is argued that the uncanny is part of a culture of concepts through which the condition of modernity has been analysed by philosophers, social theorists, writers and artists. All centre upon the idea of alienation, and thus not being at home in the society that should be one's home. This association will be exploited to offer a reinterpretation of Svenaeus' thesis as a sociological and political, rather than an ontological, one. By reviewing the work of Hegelian philosophers, Georg Simmel, and novelists, represented by Mann, Camus and McCullers, it will be argued that illness is bound up with social alienation, both as something that is caused by conditions of alienation and as an interpretative response to alienation. Seeing illness as a metaphor of the human condition in modernity allows the medical humanities to inform therapy, that would allow the patient to understand their illness, not as the ontological condition of Dasein, but rather as something mediated by modern social, economic and political conditions.
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