The ascetic misunderstanding and social phenomenology

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 ascetic misunderstanding and social phenomenology

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The philosophical and epistemological background of the social psychopathological approach is the theme of the Third study. As pointed out in the first and second studies, recent trends in phenomenology have questioned to validity of early phenomenological attempts to develop a theory of experience of the other based on the analysis of isolated individuals. All of Husserl's work is marked by an unresolved tension between egological phenomenology and a social phenomenology. Recently, the egological perspective – the individual mind being the site of the original creation of socially shared meanings – has been abandoned. This has not yet been fully acknowledged by psychopathologists, who often still adopt a transcendental perspective for the understanding of psychopathological phenomena. In this new perspective, phenomenology defends the inescapable subjective peculiarity of sociality, adopting as its landmark the subjective dimension of social action and the forms of symbolic mediation operated during the process of interaction between individuals. The social world is the world made of meanings understood and shared by every individual. The constant reference to the subjective dimension does not appear only as a fundamental epistemological argument or as a methodological procedure, but throughout this model it also adopts a full ethical choice feature.

The social world is not established by a prescriptive order, that is a set of rules accepted by everyone. Instead, the social world is established by an interpretative order valid for every individual belonging to a specific cultural context. Every person receives and participates in this interpretative order spontaneously, intuitively and in an un-reflected manner. This interpretative order valid for everyone is called common sense.

The main features of common sense are sketched in this study, and are later fully developed in the Fourth and Sixth study. Common sense is not only the set of knowledgeable facts available to everyone; it is the set of interpretative procedures or ‘account practices’ shared in a tacit and undiscussed manner by everyone belonging to the same cultural context. The interpretative procedures that establish common sense make it possible to experience the different phenomena of the world as solid realities whose meaning is taken for granted. The interpretative order of common sense has a moral and emotional value: each form of deviance brings bewilderment, disapproval, embarrassment. Common sense is the constitutive element of the perception of reality, and as such, it is the true pillar of normal mental life.

Common sense is based on the primordial phenomenon called ‘social attunement’, i.e. the ability to make emotional contact and establish mutual relationships; perceive the existence of others and their mental structure as similar to one's own; understand intuitively the mental manifestations of other persons; communicate with others using the shared meaning structures. The analysis of subjectivity as a social phenomenon is the epistemological basis for the clarification of the impairments of intersubjectivity in schizophrenia.

Chapter.  4786 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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