Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066

Volume 3, No. 2, Fall 2008

Philosophy, Psychology, and Psychopathology

On the Nature of Mental Disease: The Psychiatric Humanism of Karl Jaspers
S. Nassir Ghaemi | Tufts University School of Medicine

Karl Jaspers was a biological existentialist—that is the theme of this essay. He is often seen, in the tradition of Continental phenomenology, as opposed to scientific orthodoxy, such as the biological approach in psychiatry. A careful reading of Jaspers, especially in General Psychopathology (GP), shows that this is not the case. His criticisms of biological approaches were all directed at a reductionistic method; he valued science and biology in medicine. His approach to spiritual and existential notions in his thinking built on, rather than negated, an appreciation for science. In psychiatry, his biologically-oriented views to many conditions are most clear, and the linkage he then makes with an existential appreciation of other psychiatric states shows us that Jaspers was neither a biological reductionist nor a phenomenological/hermeneutic radical. He was a pluralist, a thinker who held that different methods were needed in different settings, but he was not simply eclectic (another misconstrual), allowing for any and all methods in whatever circumstances. This analysis here is made in the context of his views on the nature of disease in general, and mental illness in particular.


Jaspers on Melancholy
Alina N. Feld | Hofstra University

In this essay I propose to analyze Karl Jaspers' view of melancholia and schizophrenia developed in General Psychopathology (1912; 1920; 1925; 1946), further explored in the comparative psychiatric study Strindberg and van Gogh—Swedenborg-Hölderlin (1922) and expanded in the Groningen Lectures on Kierkegaard and Nietzsche collected in Reason and Existence (1935). The analysis, undergone in order to define the role and significance of the condition of human existence within Jaspers' philosophical thought expounded in his magnum opus Philosophy (1932), involves a discussion of Jaspers' pluralistic clinical approach to the psychopathology of melancholy and schizophrenia as well as his own existential interpretation of the morbid psyche.

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The Healing Dimension of Grenzerfahrung in Trauma Recovery
Brigitte Essl | Private Practice, California
Helmut Wautischer | California State University, Sonoma

In the face of current trauma research, Japers' concept of Grenzsituation as the boundary situation of death and suffering will be discussed. These two boundary situations are utilized as an appropriate metaphor to address the stages of trauma, trauma response, and trauma integration. Trauma itself is an overwhelming, life-threatening event leading to a post-trauma response that can range from acute stress disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder, and comorbidity of mood-, eating-, anxiety-, or dissociative disorders and substance abuse. The prevalence of traumatic etiologies in the above conditions has been under discovery in the multidisciplinary field of trauma research over the last couple of decades. Providing a brief overview of recent trauma research related to the specific boundary situations of death and suffering, we contrast Jaspers' trauma observations with PTSD diagnostic symptoms. In addition, Jaspers' historical boundary situation of the beginning is addressed in the context of identifying as a predictor for adult trauma adaptation the importance of secure infant attachment and the neurophysiology of early stress response. The current understanding of multigenerational trauma transfer also supports Jaspers' observation of one's embeddedness in the family system as a fundamental notion one needs to actualize. In conclusion, a phenomenological trauma treatment approach, Systemic Family Constellation Work, is introduced and briefly discussed. This approach can serve as an experiential venue to address Jaspers' notion of moving through a boundary situation by inducing an immersion field experience that can afford to participants a temporary expansion of self with lasting changes in their trauma perception.

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Exoconsciousness and Psychopathology
Rebecca Hardcastle | Private Practice, Arizona

This essay proposes a reclassification of UFO extraterrestrial experience from pathological to normal based upon the philosophical framework provided by Karl Jaspers in his General Psychopathology (1913). In this work, Jaspers identifies the psychiatric and philosophical limits of Newtonian science, which opens possibilities of quantum science, and he also places great emphasis on the importance of cultural context in a psychopathological diagnosis. John Mack's psychiatric diagnosis of over 200 patients with UFO extraterrestrial contacts resulted in a recommendation to redefine their behavior and experience as normal. The limited technological and diagnostic explanations of brain-based neuropathology, including brain-theory, sleep paralysis, temporal lobe phenomenon, and trauma fail to provide sufficient proof of psychopathological behavior. The cultural impact of increased extraterrestrial contact and subsequent media coverage represent a shift in cultural context, what was once viewed as abnormal is now increasingly perceived as normal. An analysis of Earth culture in galactic solitary confinement: weaponized space, singularity void of consciousness resources, and the limited sustainability of Earth life-forms, leads to the conclusion that the reclassification of the UFO extraterrestrial experience as normal behavior offers possible solutions to planetary sustainability.


Jaspers' Interpretation of Marx and Freud
Raymond Langley | Manhattanville College

Marx and Freud pointed out our blindness about the unconscious causes of individual and collective behavior. Their revolutionary intent was to liberate humanity by taking conscious control. Jaspers' evaluation of historical materialism and psychoanalysis turns on the contested relations between objectivity and subjectivity and science and philosophy. He tracks their two systems through stages: valid scientific discoveries within specified domains; then a de-evolution from science into world-views as a mix of pseudo-science and false philosophy; and finally, the meta-theories of Marx and Freud are absolutized into a mutually excluding universal scientific philosophy. In the century past, Jaspers argued that historical materialism and psychoanalysis (and racism) are dogmatic, dominant ideologies disguised as scientific philosophy that threatened Western civilization. From Jaspers critique we see that the relation between science and philosophy founders over a misinterpretation of the differences between knowledge and thinking. He argues that science, philosophy, and religion all rest on faith. But contemporary science produces a new form of faith as faithlessness. Modern philosophizing is contested by anti-reason and anti-faith and anti-transcendence.


Jaspers' View of Body, Psyche and Mind in General Psychopathology and Popper's Three Worlds
Andrew L. Gluck | Private Scholar, Gardiner, NY

In general, metaphysical views are characterized as either monist or dualist. Interestingly, both Karl Jaspers and Karl Popper seem to have entertained what one might call "pluralist" views of reality. In the case of Jaspers I only deal with his early views in General Psychopathology and in the case of Popper his later views as reflected in Objective Knowledge. Both thinkers discuss three separate aspects of reality. For Jaspers it is body, psyche and mind. For Popper it is World 1 (physical world), World 2 (psychological world) and World 3 (world of culture). In both cases, two of the three aspects or entities are objective and one is subjective. Neither thinker takes a firm stand on the origin of those entities or aspects of reality. Popper tacitly assumed that they all emerge from the physical world without really asserting it to be the case. Surely, he believed that culture emerged from psychological reality. Jaspers is even more reticent to discuss origins in his early work but given his interests and influences he seems even further from materialism. The most significant similarity between the two thinkers seems to be the absolute irreducibility of the three realms, at least in terms of our normal cognitive capacities. Hence both pose serious challenges to monistic ways of thinking, whether physicalist or idealist.

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Founding Editors
Alan M. Olson
Helmut Wautischer

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