Phenomenology and Psychiatry: The Need for a “Subjective Method” in the Scientific Study of Human Behavior

  • James M. Edie


Among the human or behavioral sciences psychiatry is clearly the “newest” and the one most in need of greater conceptual clarification of its theoretical foundations. It has been one of the primary aims of the Lexington Conferences which have been held now for the past three years under the leadership and inspiration of Dr. Erwin W. Straus2 to bring philosophers and psychiatrists together to attempt (1) to come to grips with the various questions which touch on the applicability of the phenomenological method to psychiatry and (2) to explore the theoretical foundations of psychiatry as a science. Both of these aims appear to many of our contemporaries in psychiatry and philosophy, as they did to a former colleague of mine who happens to be a psychologist and, more than a psychologist, a behavioristic psychologist of the strict observance, as quixotic. When, a few years ago I was instrumental in organizing a symposium involving philosophers and psychiatrists (on what we called “Existentialism, Phenomenology and the Human Sciences”) he took the occasion to write a letter to the Provost of our College at the time vigorously protesting the use of College money and the College name in support of such an anarchistic gathering — which, since it was to be open to young students, might do incalculable harm to their unformed minds and perhaps lead them astray. His protest culminated in the observation that: there are no such things as the human sciences, and, if there are, psychiatry is not one of them.


Human Behavior Human Science Intentional Object Innocent Bystander Phenomenological Method 
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  1. 6.
    Peters, R. S. in The Concept of Motivation. London 1960, and Charles Taylor in The Explanation of Behavior. London 1964, adopt a convergent approach.Google Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin · Heidelberg 1966

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  • James M. Edie

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