The genealogy of psychopathology

Giovanni Stanghellini

in Disembodied Spirits and Deanimated Bodies

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780198520894
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754302 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

The genealogy of psychopathology

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In the First study I describe the genealogy of psychopathological reason and develop a criticism of early phenomenological attempts – which can be found in Jaspers – to develop a theory of experience (especially of the experience of the other) based on the analysis of isolated individuals. I discuss Jaspers’ understandable vs. non-understandable dichotomy and come to the conclusion that Jaspers’ method of understanding should be abandoned. As Ricouer put it, this study tries to ‘break with the idolatry of the anonymous epistemological subject which is without situation’, and it points to a ‘recovery of the concrete, restoration of an experience at once personal and integral which extends between the two poles of the carnal and of the mysterious’. In the first study I make two major claims, a psychopathological and an epistemological one: just as delusion represented the most fecund revelation of the asylum-era schizophrenic world, currently the slithery pseudo-sociopathic condition incarnates the schizophrenia's prototype. Since these people risk becoming objects of theoretical removal, we must force ourselves to readjust our psychopathological knowledge to their condition. In order to force these tacit, implicit and opaque phenomena and their meanings to the surface of awareness we need a meaning-oriented and contextually sensitive approach. For this purpose, I endorsed Heidegger's discussion of the meaning of the concept of logos in phenomenology (‘letting-[things]-be-in-front-gathered’, here logos being half way between active gathering and passive letting-be the phenomena); and Wittgenstein's concept of Ueberskhtliche Darstellung (a view of the whole, or perspicuous representation, emphasising ‘thick’ description and rejecting explanation). In this epistemological context, I suggest, phenomena can only be gathered by interactive (emotional) involvement, not by dispassionate observation; concepts should not be used as labels of experience, but as expressions which function in an interpersonal context; the goal of inquiry should preferably be understanding, not explaining and not hypothesis testing; meaningfulness, and not simply agreement with observation, should validate psycho(patho)logical expression; and, finally, understanding should require a holistic approach which expands rather than constricts the realm of relevant phenomena.

Chapter.  8422 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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