Psychiatry as a Human Science

Phenomenological, Hermeneutical and Lacanian Perspectives


Psychiatry or psychopathology finds itself in a state of imbalance. The reason: the impossibility to unite biological and psychological factors. Effectively, this leads to the psychic reality being largely ignored. And yet psychiatry as a human science will have to acknowledge the psychic reality: the human capacity to symbolise reality. This book demonstrates that phenomenology, hermeneutics and Lacanian psychoanalysis support this view, whilst also drawing on Cassirer’s theory of symbolization. In the domain of psychopathology, this convergence and the conceptual space it brings offer an opportunity to create cross-fertilisation, enlarging the Lacanian clinical perspective. It will result in a philosophical conception of man as animal symbolicum, an animal fallen prey to language. In sum, the book renders a contribution to Lacanian psychopathology, to the philosophy of psychiatry and to philosophical anthropology. It is of interest to psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts and philosophers alike.

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Antoine Mooij is Professor Emeritus of Law and Psychiatry, Utrecht University, and a former Honorary Professor, Department of Philosophy, Utrecht University, who also works as a psychoanalyst in private practice. He published on Lacanian psychoanalysis, on hermeneutical psychiatry, and on philosophy of action. An example of his work is Intentionality, Desire, Responsibility. A Study in Phenomenology, Psychoanalysis and Law (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010).
"In summary, Mooij has performed an excellent service in laying the philosophical and linguistic groundwork for psychiatry as a human science. … Mooij has deeply examined the theoretical underpinnings of psychiatry as a human science. As such, his work is of value to psychiatrists and psychoanalysts who seek a deeper insight into the phenomenological basis of their work." – in: Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 44 (2013)
"…posits some compelling challenges to conventional psychiatry. … Overall, Psychiatry as a Human Science is a very convincing critique of the medical discourse in psychiatry and its neglect of subjective psychiatry. It does insightfully capture many of the concepts and ideas that a hermeneutic approach might draw on in order to redress this neglect. … The book will probably be the most important for psychiatrists though; firstly, because Mooij’s self-reflexive critique of the theories underpinning conventional psychiatry is excellent and secondly, for those new to hermeneutics, this book does provide an extensive (though not altogether accessible) introduction to many of the central ideas in a hermeneutic approach to psychiatry. … Hopefully all readers will be encouraged to consider the crucial importance of engaging with the subjective psychic reality of mental illness and some of the ways the hermeneutic approach attempts to do so. This point alone makes the book well worth reading." – in: Metapsychology 17/28 (9 July 2013)
Part I
The Medical Discourse: The Exclusion of Psychic Reality
The History of Hermeneutical Psychiatry
The Relationship between the Psychic and the Physical Reality
Empiricism in Psychiatry
Part II
Three Forms of Hermeneutics
Psychic Reality and the Symbolic Function in Triplicate
Three Psychopathological Structures and Nine Subject Positions
The Interpretation of a Life History
Appendix: Table Outlining Psychopathological Structures
Name Index
Subject Index
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