Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 485–502 | Cite as

Disordered existentiality: Mental illness and Heidegger’s philosophy of Dasein

  • Schmid Jelscha


In this paper, I propose an existentialist-phenomenological model that conceives of mental illness through the terminology of Heidegger’s Being and Time. In particular, the concepts of (i) existentiality, (ii) disturbance and (iii) the relation between ‘being-with’ and ‘the one’, will be implemented in order to reconstruct the experience of mental illness. The proposed model understands mental illness as a disturbance of a person’s existentiality. More precisely, mental illness is conceptualized as the disturbance of a person’s existential structure, the process of which leads to a becoming explicit of the otherwise implicit dynamical structure that constitutes a person’s experience. In particular, the existential component of ‘being-with’ comes to play a central role in the disturbance of existentiality, thus, I will claim, that it enables a person’s structure of experience to be ‘open for normativity’. By adopting a pragmatist stance on Heideggerian phenomenology, the suggested model proves compatible with naturalist and normativist theories of mental illness while still offering a phenomenological description of the phenomenon.


Martin Heidegger Philosophy of psychiatry Existential phenomenology Being-with 



I wish to thank Brigitte Hilmer, Rebekka Hufendiek, Matthieu Queloz, Mario Schärli, Arno Schubbach, Markus Wild, Malcolm and Leslie, as well as two anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities, Social and Political StudiesETH ZürichZürichSwitzerland

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