What does it mean to be healthy? Is healthiness intrinsically good and ill health intrinsically bad? When we consider ourselves to be in good health, it seems like we are referring to a linked but disparate set of qualities such as 1) absence of pain generally and normal levels of environmentally-caused pain, 2) ability to experience normal range of pleasures, 3) lack of any bodily impediment to a full range of behaviour, and 4) absence of indication of impending issues which may lead to 1, 2, 3 or death in the future. Those are, at any rate, the qualities that I link with healthiness (though maybe it doesn't capture some issues, such as discomfort, as distinct from pain). Pain seems to be more basic and primitive than illness or health but why is it bad to be in pain? Pain is not a reliable indicator of damage to the body; it is just a feature of consciousness that has its own qualitative characteristics. Buddhism-as-therapy encourages detachment from the experience of pain in order to observe it as a spectator and view those characteristics dispassionately (or something of the sort). Levels of pain, life expectancy and degrees of freedom of action are just facts about each of us which do not seem intrinsically good or bad. We generally all share preferences about each of them (low, long and high, respectively) so is healthiness just good because it enables us to fulfil our preferences? If so, is there anything wrong with, for example, a heavy drinker who does not heed the warnings of health professionals? Can such a drinker form a rational preference for a sozzled lifestyle over her health?

Certainly, since even if drinking excessively is bad for us, we may choose to enjoy the sensations associated with it at the risk of future damage. She may decide that she will forego prudence for the sake of present pleasures. We do not have to want to be healthy, there are experiences associated with sickness that some people value. Some philosophers are said to have welcomed the onset of blindness since this may enhance their ability to think without distractions.

It has to be admitted that there is something rather tedious about being healthy. Yes, everything is working properly but why should we find that interesting? When one asks someone how they are and the reply is that all is well, it is difficult to know how to continue, whereas if they have a variety of interesting conditions afflicting their body a whole range of conversation then can emerge. Where would Job have been without his family disasters and his boils, what would he and his "comforters" have had to discuss? Would God have responded to him without the ill health he had earlier inflicted on him? Good health is banal, and illness full of possibilities, perhaps.

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