International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Series | Book | Chapter


"The delirious illusion of being in the world"

toward a phenomenology of schizophrenia

Osborne P WigginsMichael Alan SchwartzMichael A. Schwartz

pp. 269-281


Our title is an excerpt from a statement by Antonin Artaud, the poet, playwright, and actor, who was almost certainly schizophrenic (Artaud, 1965, 85; Sass, 1992). Born in Marseilles in 1896, Artaud died in Paris in 1948. In 1937 on a boat to Ireland, he had to be placed in a straightjacket after threatening to harm himself. Eight of his fifty-two years he spent in mental institutions in Rouen, Paris, and Rodez (Artaud, 1965, p. 6). Artaud was one of those relatively rare individuals who succeeded in harnessing certain aspects of his schizophrenia to serving a revolutionary creativity. Most people afflicted with schizophrenia remain incapable of creative breakthroughs. As we shall see, however, with the onset of schizophrenia the individual is liberated from the structures and norms that powerfully govern normal human experience. In this condition even the most basic formations of the world-taken-for-granted, the lifeworld, are shaken. In the place of these previously habitual structures, new visions emerge. If the individual can somehow manage to control and shape these novel images, genius – in most cases an initially bewildering genius – may perhaps flourish.Here we shall not examine the creativity that may – albeit rarely – issue from schizophrenic mental life (Sass, 1992). We shall rather analyze the more common forms of schizophrenia, forms that bring on only severe suffering and hardship without the compensation of greater originality. We shall approach these more common components from the point of view of phenomenological-anthropological psychiatry. We shall first provide a brief introduction to the phenomenological-anthropological perspective. This introduction will paint the background for our own explication of basic phenomenological concepts, namely, intentionality, synthesis, constitution, automatic and active mental life, and the ego (Husserl, 1973; Husserl, 1982; Gurwitsch, 1964; Gurwitsch, 1966). We shall then address schizophrenic mental life as a whole, claiming that the transformation of experience that it entails affects even the most basic ontological constituents of the world, namely, space, time, causality, and the nature of objects. This phenomenological discussion will allow us to adapt a set of concepts from philosophical anthropology and apply it to schizophrenia, namely, the concept of "world openness" and the need to reduce that openness. We shall focus on one of the more puzzling aspects of schizophrenia, what psychiatrists call "thought insertion" (Stephens and Graham, When self-­consciousness breaks: Alien voices and inserted thoughts. The MIT Press, Cambridge, 2000). We shall then all-too-briefly indicate the difference between an early stage of schizophrenia and a later one. "— End of Abstract'

Publication details

Published in:

Lohmar Dieter, Brudzińska Jagna (2012). Founding psychoanalysis phenomenologically: phenomenological theory of subjectivity and the psychoanalytic experience, Springer, Dordrecht.

Pages: 269-281

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-1848-7_15

Full citation:

Wiggins Osborne P, Schwartz Michael Alan, Schwartz Michael A. (2012). "The delirious illusion of being in the world": toward a phenomenology of schizophrenia, in D. Lohmar & J. Brudzińska (eds.), Founding psychoanalysis phenomenologically, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 269-281.