Thesis ID: CBB001562413

Bridging Phenomenology and the Clinic: Ludwig Binswanger's “Science of Subjectivity” (2001)


Lanzoni, Susan Marie (Author)

Harvard University
Harrington, Anne

Publication Date: 2001
Edition Details: Advisor: Harrington, Anne
Physical Details: 361 pp.
Language: English

This thesis centers on the work of Ludwig Binswanger (1881-1966), the Swiss psychiatrist and director of the Bellevue asylum, who turned to phenomenology as a tool for achieving a deeper understanding of the experiences of his psychotic patients. In so doing he developed an innovative ‘science of subjectivity’ in the early years of the twentieth century. Binswanger's hybrid science borrowed freely from philosophical phenomenology in order to achieve empirical goals with relevance to the psychiatric clinic, particularly the delineation of the structures of existence, or the "world-projections" [Weltentwürfe) of his patients suffering from mania and schizophrenia. In tracking the shifts in the development of Binswanger's approach, I demonstrate how in the 1920s, Binswanger constructed a science of the clinical encounter and subsequently formulated what he called an existential anthropology in the early 1930s. Finally, in the 1940s, he termed his approach existential analysis (Daseinsanalyse), at which time he also put forth a phenomenology of the basic forms of human existence. As both philosopher and psychiatrist, Binswanger tried to meld the domains of a philosophical appraisal of human existence with the elucidation of concrete cases of mental disorder. This took the form of reframing his patients' cognitive disturbances or psychopathology within the larger context of alterations of existence, or manners of being. This style of reasoning was a way to make more relevant what he saw as the narrow approach of psychiatric clinicians, but it also reflected deeper cultural and political agendas. Binswanger, as did other conservative-minded intellectuals of his era, bemoaned the loss of meaning and value from the practice of the sciences. His remedy for this state of affairs was to reject neither science nor the pursuit of meaning, but instead to articulate a way to encompass both elements. This dissertation thus explores a historical moment in which certain scientific and philosophical answers to problem of ‘man’ were articulated and developed in a hybrid approach that I have termed a ‘science of subjectivity’. Binswanger's project had its roots in psychiatric asylum practice and psychoanalysis, in various strands of phenomenology, and in a larger cultural discourse on modernity.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 62 (2002): 3543. UMI order no. 3028402.

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Authors & Contributors
Akavia, Naamah
Thifault, Marie-Claude
Tabb, Kathryn
Marazia, Chantal
Parle, Julie
Coleborne, Catharine
History of Psychiatry
Science in Context
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadienne d'Histoire de la Medecine
Medizinhistorisches Journal
Health and History
University of KwaZulu-Natal Press
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Chicago Press
Los Libros de la Catarata
University of Rochester Press
Mental disorders and diseases
Psychiatric hospitals
Binswanger, Ludwig
Willis, Thomas
Weyl, Hermann
Starobinski, Jean
Freud, Sigmund
Heidegger, Martin
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
17th century
21st century
Québec (Canada)
South Africa
New Zealand
United States
Johns Hopkins University
National Health Service (Great Britain)

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