The Generosity of the Ill

Arthur W. Frank

in The Renewal of Generosity

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780226260150
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226260259 | DOI:
The Generosity of the Ill

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Albert Schweitzer imagines illness in the Stoic manner that this chapter's epigraph expresses: he transforms the illness that was the obstacle in his way into the calling that sets him on the way. In this passage, Schweitzer separates what is inner from what is exterior, finds freedom in the inner, and seeks to be beyond susceptibility to disturbance caused by the external. Schweitzer's sense of obligation may begin in an eternal Stoicism, but he does not remain within the “internal dialogicality” that Mikhail Bakhtin considers characteristic of the Stoics. The phrase “moral perfectionism” sounds heavy to contemporary ears; it seems to impose a burden, like Schweitzer's fellowship of those who bear the mark of pain. Such phrases do assert a radical ideal of responsibility, and the line between inspiring and burdening may necessarily be a fine one.

Keywords: Albert Schweitzer; illness; sense of obligation; Stoicism; Mikhail Bakhtin; moral perfectionism

Chapter.  9615 words. 

Subjects: Health, Illness, and Medicine

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