Psychopathology and causal explanation in practice. A critical note on Heidegger's Zollikon Seminars

G. Meynen, J.H.P. Verburgt

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5 Citations (Scopus)


From 1959 until 1969, Heidegger lectured to psychiatrists and psychiatry students at the University of Zurich Psychiatric Clinic and in Zollikon. The transcriptions of these lectures were published as the Zollikon Seminars. In these seminars Heidegger is highly critical of psychoanalysis, because of its causal and objectifying approach to the human being. In general, Heidegger considers it an objectification or even an elimination of the human being to approach a patient from a causal perspective. In our view Heidegger has overlooked the peculiar nature and complexity of psychotherapy and psychiatry, namely that psychiatry is not just a discipline that combines a hermeneutical approach and a natural science approach on a theoretical level, but it also deals with psychopathology in practice. We argue, also referring to Strawson and Gadamer, that in psychiatric practice causal explanation and hermeneutic understanding are no mutually exclusive approaches. We conclude that the encounter of philosophy and psychiatry in matters of causality and motivation could be particularly fruitful when the practical situation is addressed, recognizing the special character of psychopathology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-66
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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