Article ID: CBB001220600

Philosophical Whitewashing. Ludwig Binswanger (1881--1966) and the Sterilisation of Manic-Depressive Patients (2011)


The Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger is known as the founder of the Daseinsanalyse (existential analysis) and more generally for having applied contemporary philosophical concepts and theories to psychiatry. The fortune of the philosopher Binswanger constituted a formidable obstacle to a historical scrutiny of his actual clinical practice. In the long run, the philosopher overshadowed the psychiatrist. The present paper takes the move from a "minor" work, an essay on the sterilisation of manic-depressive patients Binswanger published in 1938. This essay represents a rare exception in Binswanger's scientific production in many respects: for its editorial collocation, for the subject (a concrete medical intervention) and the complete absence of philosophical references. Nevertheless, or precisely for this reason, the essay has been largely ignored by the scholarship, both of Swiss eugenics and of Binswanger himself. This paper explores the epistemological circumstances of this negligence and its historiographic significance, with special attention to the philosophical-anthropological refashioning of a psychiatric myth.

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Authors & Contributors
Heller, Geneviève
Dumoulin, Jean-François
Jeanmonod, Gilles
Gasser, Jacques
Blazer, Dan G.
Boarini, Maria Lúcia
History of Psychiatry
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadienne d'Histoire de la Medecine
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Spontaneous Generations
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Oxford University Press
Chronos Verlag
Cambridge University Press
Mental disorders and diseases
Birth control; contraception; sterilization
Psychiatric hospitals
Binswanger, Ludwig
Rorschach, Hermann
Roland Kuhn
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, late
20th century, early
21st century
18th century
Zurich (Switzerland)
United States
Alberta, Canada
Alabama (U.S.)
United States. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)
Universität Zürich

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