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(2018) Schizophrenia and common sense, Dordrecht, Springer.

Mind and madness

Louis Sass and the horizonal conception of experience

George Carpenter

pp. 137-146

The philosophy of psychiatry has recently begun to pay attention to the school of phenomenology initiated by Husserl and the "therapeutic' philosophy of Wittgenstein in order to make sense of madness; Louis Sass is exemplary of this trend. J.J. Valberg argues that experience, as characterized by phenomenology, cannot be reconciled with the scientific worldview, due its all-encompassing character whereby everything that exists refers back to a central subject. He calls this the horizonal conception of experience (Sect. 8.2.2). Nevertheless, in line with natural science he also thinks that experience is dependent upon the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Experience is thus paradoxically a small, contingent part of the world, and the necessary condition of there being a world at all (Sect. 8.3). Valberg argues that this combination generates insoluble "puzzles" for philosophy. Louis Sass finds strikingly similar paradoxes in the experiences of schizophrenic patients, who suffer from an "impossible' lived situation, which they experience as a change to the nature of the world, rather than to their minds (Sect. 8.4). He argues that their illness is the result of a quasi-voluntary process of bringing pre-reflective backgrounds to consciousness into explicit awareness. In this paper, I shall investigate the parallels between what Valberg thinks is our natural human condition, and what Sass regards as psychopathology. I will conclude (Sect. 8.5) that Valberg's characterization of ordinary (non-pathological) consciousness as paradoxical indicates a limit to Sass's phenomenological psychiatry.

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Carpenter, G. (2018)., Mind and madness: Louis Sass and the horizonal conception of experience, in I. Hipólito, J. Gonçalves & J. G. Pereira (eds.), Schizophrenia and common sense, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 137-146.

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