95258 - Philosophy of Wellness

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this class • will be able to recognize and analyze different philosophical approaches to wellness, well-being and health, • will have gained insight into how to identify value and factual assumptions in scientific contexts • And have developed skills that will enable them to think more clearly and critically about wellness, well-being and health, as future providers, policy makers, and consumers.

Course contents

Concepts of wellness, well-being and health are key concepts for medicine, psychology, economics, sociology, as well as for our experience of everyday life. Measures of wellness influence politicians’ decisions, medical research and healthcare allocations, as well as our decisions about work, free time, sports and relationships.

Though seemingly familiar, these concepts are multi-faceted and complex and they implicitly involve assumptions and values. What is the connection between wellness and physical and mental health? Is it compatible with disease and disability? Are there economic determinants of wellness? Is wellness a subjective feeling, like happiness? Can we measure wellness objectively?

These are conceptual or philosophical questions that lie at the core of the new interdisciplinary field of well-being and quality of life studies. We will see how they are framed in the contemporary philosophical debate and scientific literature, and focus on applications and examples.

Course themes: 

Wellness and physical health

Traditional theories of well-being in philosophy

Wellness and happiness: the positive psychology paradigm

Wellbeing and old age, disability, and mental illness

Guest lecture: Marco Fasoli on Digital Well-being



Classes are based on these texts:

Huber, M., Knottnerus, J. A., Green, L., van der Horst, H., Jadad, A. R., Kromhout, D., ... & Smid, H. (2011). How should we define health? British Medical Journal, 343-44

Nordenfelt, L. (2007). The concepts of health and illness revisited. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 10(1), 5-10.

Fletcher, G. (2016). The Philosophy of Well-Being: An Introduction. Routledge.

Seligman, Martin (2012) Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Simon and Schuster, 2012. 

You are not required to read them integrally for the exam. They are referred to and summarized in the class notes (pdf or ppt files delivered after each class).

Class notes should be studied before preparing the final essay, as they are meant to connect the topic articles to the general framework.

For each course topic, 2-3 specific articles will be indicated and uploaded. These are what your final essay should be based on.


Teaching methods

Traditional classes and discussion of texts.

Assessment methods

You should write and hand in an essay (paper) on one of the topics covered during the course.

The essay should be no longer than 5000 words. Essay models will be illustrated during the course and relevant documents wil be posted on Virtuale.

Before starting to write your essay, you are required to ask the teacher for selected readings and instructions, about 1 month before the planned exam date.

You will then have to give a short presentation of your essay (10 mins) on the day of the exam. 

Essays will be graded according to Clarity, Originality, Argument structure, Use of references.

Active participation during the course (eg. presenting an article) my also add up to your final grade.

Teaching tools

PPt and pdf files wil be uploaded after each class

Office hours

See the website of Elisabetta Lalumera