Health is one of the basic concepts in the philosophy of medicine. Some philosophers hold that just as there are different concepts of diseases, there are different concepts of health, because such concepts are deeply influenced by value judgments. This paper shows that health as we often talk about is the health of individual human beings, and that the concept of health should be based on an understanding of the essence of individual human beings. From this viewpoint, there is some common ground among the different concepts of health.
The key issue discussed in this paper is what Confucian philosophy can contribute to the understanding and promotion of human health. Confucian philosophy claims that the essence of individual human beings lies in the virtues that distinguish human beings from animals. The main Confucian virtues are “ren,” “yi,” “li,” and “zhi” “Ren” means showing love to others, which is the core virtue and principle of perfecting oneself and having proper relationship with others. It emphasizes that personal mental health, good relationships with others, and a harmonious society are important factors of personal health. This paper argues that this Confucian viewpoint is closely aligned with the World Health Organization’s definition of health, and addresses the following relevant issues.
1. In Confucian philosophy, “shen” (usually translated as “body”) has three meanings, referring not only to the physical body, but also to the unity of body and mind, and sometimes also to virtue. “Xin” mainly refers to the mind, but also refers to moral consciousness.
The holistic unity of body and mind urges people to pay attention to everyday life, especially diet, nutrition, and sleep. Mind is not another entity, but is embodied in the body.
2. Confucian philosophy emphasizes that “xin” (mind) dominates “body.” It urges us to pay more attention to “xiu shen,” or perfecting ourselves. Emotions deeply influence health. In Confucian philosophy the “seven main emotions” are “love, anger, grief, joy, sadness, fear, and shock.” If these emotions are excessive, then they will cause illness and disease. Virtue can cultivate our character and help us to regulate these emotions correctly. Those who have virtue are always peaceful and long-lived. “Xiu shen” involves trying to be a “junzi,” or one who has moral virtue.
3. Confucian philosophy emphasizes “xiu shen” and the individual’s obligation to personal behavior and health. Although the social environment and life conditions influence personal behavior and health, we are also responsible for our bhavior and health. A “junzi” is a kind of man who can persist with his virtue and resist lures. Medical knowledge and technology cannot cure all diseases, so everyone should take preventative measures.
However, this does not mean that health is the result of virtue, or that disease is the result of immorality. Virtue is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for health. “It is a misfortune to lose health, but not misconduct.”
4. Confucian health emphasizes that “xiu shen” and good interpersonal relationships are important to personal health. The core meaning of “ren” is to love and help others: what you do not want to be done to yourself, do not do to others. This principle helps one to get along well with family members, neighbors, and friends, and to construct ordered, harmonious interpersonal relationships and a favorable social environment. This benefits personal health and the welfare of human beings as a whole.
In brief, Confucian philosophy promotes health, and helps people to live a happy life by developing perfect virtue. It is worth sharing with other nations.
健康是醫學哲學中最基本的概念之一。不少人認為，健康概念如同疾病一樣，受到不同價值觀念的影響，其內涵是多元化的，存在多種健康概念。筆者認為，我們所講的健康主要指人的健康，對健康的理解應當與對人的理解與界定聯繫起來。儘管不同哲學文化、思想觀念對人的界定各有側重，但都有共同的方面，健康概念也是如此。筆者認為， 世界衞生組織[World HealthOrganization (WHO)]的健康概念比較全面地揭示了健康的本質，已成為大多數人追求的健康目標。儒家對健康的理解主要基於人的道德意識和道德價值，強調修身養心、精神健康對維護軀體健康、構建和諧人際關係、社會環境的重要性，這與WHO 的定義有異曲同工之處。