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Phenomenological Research in Schizophrenia: From Philosophical Anthropology to Empirical Science

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The subjective experience of schizophrenia, its cause, and its course have been consistent topics of interest within the phenomenological tradition since its inception. After 80 years of study and the efforts of many investigators, however, phenomenological contributions have so far had only a modest impact on current understandings of this disorder. In this article, the author reviews the methodological and theoretical issues involved in the development of a phenomenological approach to understanding schizophrenia. Drawing examples from his own empirical research, the author illustrates the three steps of description, understanding, and explanation required by an application of the phenomenological method to this empirical domain. He then considers obstacles to the acceptance of insights generated through this method by the mainstream psychiatric community. In conclusion, he suggests that the promise offered by a phenomenological approach will most likely be fulfilled when investigators appeal to the phenomenological conviction in intentionality to provide the guidelines for an empirical science of subjective life.

Affiliations: 1: Yale University School of Medicine

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