Bacchini, Fabio (2008) Love as sickness: the analogy put to the test. Medische Antropologie, Vol. 20 (1), p. 13-26. ISSN 0925-4374. Article.
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The analogy between love and sickness is a powerful conceptual device that structures our understanding of love (and perhaps partly our understanding of sickness, too). We grasp love in the way we do because we have this analogy in mind. My aim in this paper is, firstly, to explore some of the reasons that can be called up to justify the analogy. I will try to identify the properties that love and sickness can be considered to share. I will therefore point out that love and sickness are both characterized by being alterations, conditions demanding a solution, seeming inexplicable, being detectable by symptoms, and so on. These common traits can provide some foundations for the analogy. But a good analogy is not created just because some common traits exist: the shared properties need to be relevant, and the analogy should let us discover new, interesting things about our target concept. So my second question in this paper is: what can we learn about love if we take the analogy between love and sickness seriously? I will develop the analogy, and will try to examine whether some other important traits of sickness can nevertheless be discovered in love, and how they are disguised. Sick persons are not normally responsible for their condition; sickness has possible causes and possible effects; there are therapies, doctors, hospitals, contagion, right or wrong diagnoses; sickness has special relations with voluntariness, and with beliefs. What does all this become on the side of love? Is the analogy successful, or does it end in failure?
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