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Form and content in Jaspers’ psychopathology 

Form and content in Jaspers’ psychopathology
Form and content in Jaspers’ psychopathology

Chris Walker

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date: 26 January 2021

Jaspers drew the distinction of form and content from the Transcendental Analytic of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787). The form of an experience allows us to distinguish normal image from true hallucination from pseudohallucination, all of which experiences may have the same content. The form-content distinction applies to all psychopathological knowledge – not just to phenomenology. The distinction is explicit in Jaspers’ phenomenology and psychology of understandable connections, but only implicit in the psychology of objective performance and causal connections. Should we step beyond particular knowledge to psychic life as a whole – to nosology, eidology and biography – the form-content distinction no longer applies and we are in the realm of Kantian regulative ideas. Kant’s theory of knowledge and critique of metaphysics is absolutely central to Jaspers’ psychopathology.

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