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Foregrounding contexts: What kinds of understanding are appropriate in the world of mental illness? 

Foregrounding contexts: What kinds of understanding are appropriate in the world of mental illness?
Chapter:
Foregrounding contexts: What kinds of understanding are appropriate in the world of mental illness?
Source:
Postpsychiatry: Mental health in a postmodern world
Author(s):

Patrick Bracken

and Philip Thomas

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198526094.003.0008

In many respects, Chapter 4 is at the heart of the book. This is centrally concerned with what we might call the ‘gaze’ of psychiatry: how it ‘sees’ or encounters the problems people bring to it. This is a complex issue involving questions of diagnosis and framing, as well as power and priorities. We have already mentioned the work of Karl Jaspers and his understanding of phenomenology. In Chapter 4, we argue that this version of phenomenology is deeply Cartesian; it presents phenomenology as a rigorous science of human experience, which we believe to be problematic. It also tends to separate the person’s experiences from the human contexts that render them meaningful, and from the body, through which any experience is brought into being. In the second half of the chapter, we spell out how the philosophy of Martin Heidegger serves to challenge this Cartesian viewpoint and thus opens up the possibility of very different starting points for psychology and medicine.

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