Department of Philosophy

Illness, Narrative and Moral Transformation

Project summary

Making sense of the morally transformative power of illness.

This project explores the ways philosophy can enable ill persons to better understand the positive transformative effects of experiences of chronic illness.


Everyone has encounters with illness, whether their own or that of others, often including people they love. Such experiences are often starkly negative, involving pain, despair, loneliness, and loss of possibilities and a sense of the meaningfulness of life. Sometimes, however, experiences of illness have positive aspects, too. There is talk of one's being taught moral lessons, of learning what matters in life, and of gaining a new perspective on who one is and the meaning and purpose of one's life.

Such claims are complex and invoke moral and existential concerns that go beyond the scope of medicine and healthcare. Fortunately, philosophy has methods and resources for articulating and understand these sorts of experiences.

Kidd's aim, in this project, is to find ways to better enable ill persons to find moral meaning in their experiences of illness. Working with colleagues in psychology, medicine and health science, and sociology, the hope is to give ill persons new ways to cope with their experiences.

Who's involved:

Ian James Kidd



  • ‘Exemplars, Ethics, and Illness Narratives’, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics
  • 'Phenomenology of Illness, Philosophy, and Life', Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Science 62 (2017): 56-60.
  • ‪‘Illness as Transformative Experience’, co-authored with Havi Carel and Richard Pettigrew, The Lancet, 388 (2016): 1152-1153.
  • ‪‘Transformative Suffering and the Cultivation of Virtue’, Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology 22.4 (2015), 291-29
  • 'Can Illness Be Edifying?', Inquiry 55.5 (2012): 496-520.

Department of Philosophy

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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