Breaking the silence on illness

Can we express what illness is like?

Philosopher Havi Carel, influenced by the subject-object problem, argues that serious illness poses a challenge in verbal expression due to its complex nature. This article explores the ineffability of illness, delving into the hurdles in articulating experiences seen as too traumatic or isolating. Carel challenges the societal norm of sharing, proposing a 'right to silence.' Examining the varying degrees of ineffability and isolating nature of illness, Carel advocates for the inclusion of patient views as valuable sources of information to enhance our understanding of illness, instead of viewing patients as merely objects to be studied.


Serious illness is demanding. It is hard to be ill, feel pain and fatigue, worry about one’s future, and dread further decline and sometimes dying. This subjective experience is core to being ill and requires attention, care, and understanding. When we are ill, we feel ill and this feeling, and its myriad ways, has

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