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The pursuit of health is one of the most basic and prevalent concerns of humanity. In order to better attain and preserve health, a fundamental and unified description of the concept is required. Using Paul Tillich's ontological framework, I introduce a complete characterization of health and disease is that is useful to the philosophy of medicine and for health-care workers. Health cannot be understood merely as proper functioning of the physical body or of the separated levels of body, mind, and soul. Rather, the multidimensional unity that is the essence of human life requires a new understanding of health as balanced self-integration within the multiple human dimensions. The ontological description of health and disease has concrete implications for how health-care workers should approach healing. It calls for a multidimensional approach to healing in which particular healing is needed and helpful if it considers the other realms of the human. It reveals the importance of accepting limited health as well as the value of faith understood as an ultimate concern because of its ability to wholly integrate the person.

Keywords: Paul Tillich; being; disease; existentialism; faith; healing; health; medicine; multidimensional unity; ontology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, 7504 East 4th Ave. #403, Denver, CO 80230;, Email:

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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