A critical perspective on second-order empathy in understanding psychopathology: phenomenology and ethics

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 36 (2):97-116 (2015)
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Abstract

The centenary of Karl Jaspers' General Psychopathology was recognised in 2013 with the publication of a volume of essays dedicated to his work. Leading phenomenological-psychopathologists and philosophers of psychiatry examined Jaspers notion of empathic understanding and his declaration that certain schizophrenic phenomena are ‘un-understandable’. The consensus reached by the authors was that Jaspers operated with a narrow conception of phenomenology and empathy and that schizophrenic phenomena can be understood through what they variously called second-order and radical empathy. This article offers a critical examination of the second-order empathic stance along phenomenological and ethical lines. It asks: Is second-order empathy possible? Is the second-order empathic stance an ethically acceptable attitude towards persons diagnosed with schizophrenia? I argue that second-order empathy is an incoherent method that cannot be realised. Further, the attitude promoted by this method is ethically problematic insofar as the emphasis placed on radical otherness disinvests persons diagnosed with schizophrenia from a fair chance to participate in the public construction of their identity and, hence, to redress traditional symbolic injustices

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Mohammed Rashed
Birkbeck College

References found in this work

Phenomenology of perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1945 - Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: The Humanities Press. Edited by Donald A. Landes.
Phenomenology of Perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1945 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Donald A. Landes.
Phenomenology of Perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1962 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Donald A. Landes.
Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy.Edmund Husserl - 1980 - Hingham, MA, USA: Distributors for the U.S. and Canada, Kluwer Boston.

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