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Phenomenological Psychopathology: Toward a Person-Centered Hermeneutic Approach in the Clinical Encounter

Abstract

This introduction is an overall outlook of the methods used in phenomenological psychopathology. The several meanings of the term ‘psychopathology’ are differentiated, together with a brief overview of the main ideas in philosophical phenomenology. Then, key methodological concepts in use in phenomenological psychopathology are discussed: form and content, explaining and understanding, static and genetic understanding, epoché and eidos, the existentialia exploring the basic way human beings exist in the world. Finally, the hermeneutic approach in psychopathology is discussed at three levels: the hermeneutics of mental symptoms, the hermeneutic circle in the relationship between symptoms and diagnosis, and the hermeneutics of the deep subjective structure on which the previous levels are grounded.

Keyword

  • Phenomenology
  • Hermeneutics
  • Psychopathology
  • Lived experience
  • Subjectivity
  • Philosophy of psychiatry

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Hermann Emminghaus (1845–1904) was a German psychiatrist, author of an 1878 book on psychopathology entitled Allgemeine Psychopathologie zur Einführung in das Studium der Geistesstörungen. Jaspers was surely aware of this book, as well as the contributions of Störring and Morselli.

  2. 2.

    It should be stressed that this distinction between prejudices and presuppositions is not yet clearly expressed in the 1913 first edition of the General Psychopathology, although the critique of prejudices is somehow already there. Probably the 1913 edition was more confident on the possibility of an approach free of prejudices (today it would be called atheoretical) than later, philosophically more mature editions.

  3. 3.

    Of course both Husserl and Jaspers inherit this issue from the antimetaphysical spirit which was quite diffused in the philosophical debate of the last part of the nineteen century; i.e., a post-Kantian legacy arguing against all-comprehensive theoretical systems (like Hegel’s) and proposing a return to lived experience.

  4. 4.

    The universities teaching the neo-Kraepelinian approach in the 1970s.

  5. 5.

    Existentials, existentialia, and existential a prioris are different translations of the same term, i.e., Heidegger’s Existenzialien.

  6. 6.

    This last sentence introduces another fundamental distinction between the ontological level, which is the study of the Being, pertaining to the metaphysics (the level of analysis in Heidegger’s Being and Time), and the ontic level, which is the level of concrete existence of this or that being. Needleman labels Binswanger’s approach as “meta-ontic,” as something lying in between the ontological and the ontic level. To avoid unnecessary complications, it is enough to consider that the ontic level is the level of concrete existence and that psychopathological analyses, dealing with the way of being in the world of real persons, can be conceived as ontic analyses.

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Stanghellini, G., Aragona, M. (2016). Phenomenological Psychopathology: Toward a Person-Centered Hermeneutic Approach in the Clinical Encounter. In: Stanghellini, G., Aragona, M. (eds) An Experiential Approach to Psychopathology. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29945-7_1

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