Self and World in Schizophrenia: Three Classic Approaches

This article presents an introductory overview of the interpretations of schizophrenia offered by three phenomenological psychiatrists: Eugene Minkowski (1885-1972), Wolfgang Blankenburg (b. 1928), and Kimura Bin (b. 1931).

Minkowski views schizophrenia as characterized by a diminished sense of dynamic and vital connection to the world ("loss of vital contact"), often accompanied by a hypertrophy of intellectual and static tendencies ("morbid rationalism," "morbid geometrism"). Blankenburg emphasizes the patient's loss of the normal sense of obviousness or "natural self-evidence"—a loss of the usual common-sense background that enables normal persons to cope easily with the social and practical world. Kimura focuses on certain distortions of self-experience: a distinctive splitting of the subjective self, alienated awareness of one's own ongoing consciousness, and profound uncertainty about the "I-ness" of the self.

In addition to a summary, this article offers a comparison and critique of these three approaches. The three approaches are also considered in light of a more recent, phenomenological formulation of schizophrenia as a disorder of self-experience (an ipseity disturbance) involving hyperreflexivity and diminished self-affection (i.e., heightened awareness of aspects of experience that would normally remain tacit or presupposed and decline in the feeling of existing as a subject of awareness).