Two ways of combining philosophy and psychopathology of time experiences

  • Alice Holzhey-Kunz


In this paper the author presents two different modes of relationship between phenomenological psychopathology and philosophy. The dominant mode conforms to the medical-psychiatric discourse which takes pathological time experiences as negative deviations from the ‘normal’ and ‘adequate’ equivalent. In this mode phenomenological description of ‘disturbed’ time experiences requires philosophy to provide an insight into the ‘essence’ of time and an essentially adequate experience of time. Only such a philosophical insight can deliver a valid reference point for investigating what is really missing in pathological time experiences. This philosophical reference point can either consist in a metaphysical-normative concept of time and time experiences (Bergson), or in a transcendental concept of how normal and abnormal time experiences are constituted in the inner consciousness of time (Husserl). There is another mode of relationship which conforms to Freud’s discovery that pathological symptoms are not just negative alterations of the ‘normal’ but hide an own ‘meaning’. The author makes the case for the use of philosophy to unveil the specific kind of meaning in pathological experiences of time. She refers to existential philosophy in this respect, and in particular to its concept of Angst as a fundamental philosophical experience. This allows for a hermeneutic approach to ‘disturbed’ time experiences. What looks from a pure psychiatric perspective to be a mere ‘disorder’ of the ‘normal’, becomes understandable as a specific form of ‘suffering from one’s own temporality’. She argues that people with disturbed time experiences are especially sensitive to anxiety-laden experiences of what it means to be temporal, whilst ‘normal’ people can screen them out in favor of a ‘mentally undisturbed’ everyday life.


Phenomenological approach to psychopathological phenomena Medical-psychiatric discourse Normative philosophy Transcendental philosophy Phenomenological hermeneutics Existential philosophy 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ZürichSwitzerland

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