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Phenomenology 2010

Volume 5, Issue Part 2, 2010

Selected Essays from North America Part 2

Osborne P. Wiggins, Michael Alan Schwartz
Pages 309-321

The Concept of Pathology and Psychiatry’s Need for a Philosophy of Life

Stipulating that human being-in-the-world lies at the basis of phenomenological psychiatry, we move from the phenomenological notion of the correlation of experiencing subject with his or her experienced world to the level of the organism-environment relationship. Fundamental agreements between Hans Jonas’s and George Canguilhem’s philosophical biologies are shown. These agreements lie in elaborations of the “dynamic polarities” that relate the organism to its environment and the “norms” that preside over this relatedness. Three constituents of this relationship as explicated by Jonas are summarized: (1) since the organism is always threatened with nonbeing, it must of necessity always re-achieve its continued being by its own activity, (2) organisms are both enclosed within themselves, while they are also ceaselessly reaching out to their environments and interacting with them, and (3) organisms are both dependent on their own material components at any given moment and independent of any particular collection of these components across time. Since these three constituents of the organism-environment relationship are governed by norms the organism is also seen to valorize certain aspects of its environment and not others. In accordance with Canguilhem’s conception of pathology as both restricting the organism’s possibilities and causing pain and suffering, we examine two personality types, the anti-social personality and the type that H. Tellenbach and A. Kraus call typus melancholicus. Changes in social environments greatly alter what can be termed the “pathology” of these personality types. We conclude by invoking Erwin Straus on the differences between norm and pathology of I-world relationships.

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