The origins of the psychopathology of the social being

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 origins of the psychopathology of the social being

Show Summary Details


In the Second study I adopt a social psychopathological approach, and I describe its historical background here, unfolding early attempts by Kahlbaum, Hecker, and Kretschmer to portray heboidophrenia, hebephrenia and schizoidia as ‘social madness’ and ‘moral idiocy’. This was a fundamental clinical move, although it was ignored for a very long time; in my view, it has turned out to be essential for the future of phenomenological psychopathology. The focus of the psychopathological enquiry is removed from full-blown psychotic symptoms taking place in an isolated individual, and concentrates on the vulnerable structures of her consciousness studied in the context of her life-world.

I see Kahlbaum, Hecker and especially Kretschmer as forerunners of the social psychopathological approach. This view brings to the fore madness as a form of breakdown of the social being. Today, we can easily say that schizophrenia is a developmental pathology. These authors help us understand the deep meaning of this: schizophrenia is a pathology of the dialectical process between your own bare individuality and the mores and institutions of the society to which you belong. That interplay in which every individual participates, that looking for your own personal – if not your own original – appropriation of these mores and institutions, grinds to a halt. Emotional coldness and moral idiocy are wed in these people. Their distance from their own emotions does not allow them to perceive the other as another person. Without emotions the world loses its reality: it becomes a play, a game whose rules can be made or ignored as you will. The misanthropic scorn for common morals at times masks an excruciating yearning for humankind.

Chapter.  5877 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.