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  • Response to the Commentaries
  • Fredrik Svenaeus (bio)

It has been a pleasure to read the interesting criticisms leveled at my phenomenological analysis of alexithymia, and I am flattered by the attention and time devoted to it by the four commentators. Actually, a couple of years have passed since I wrote this paper, and my thought has since developed and moved on, at least partly, in new directions. This puts me in the odd position of wanting to write a fifth commentary on my own paper rather than to defend it against the criticisms and suggestions for further analysis offered by my commentators. I indeed agree with many of the interesting points they make.

Although all of the commentators seem to agree upon the value and possibilities of phenomenological analysis in the field of psychiatry, not all of them are convinced that the phenomenology of Heidegger offers the most promising way to proceed, nor that my interpretation of his philosophy is the only—or even a tenable—one. I would first like to thank Patrick Bracken for providing some further background to my article by pointing to the work of the psychiatrist Medard Boss and the anthropologists Byron Good and Arthur Kleinman, all of whom offer important contributions to the phenomenology of feelings and mental disorders. Other valuable sources in the context of phenomenology and psychiatry are the works of F. J. J. Buytendijk, Ludwig Binswanger, Drew Leder, and Erwin Straus, but not everyone can be mentioned in a short article.

Marilyn Nissim-Sabat advocates the phenomenology of Husserl as offering better possibilities than Heidegger’s approach in developing a phenomenology of illness. Her main argument for this claim is the absence of a true “interiority”—a self—and an analysis of the development of this self in Heidegger’s philosophy. I am not convinced that my anthropological interpretation of Sein und Zeit (a work published in 1927) is rendered impossible by the development of Heidegger’s own thought after 1930. At this “turn” (often referred to as die Kehre), in Heidegger’s thought, the self is indeed “eclipsed” (as the title of Zimmerman’s valuable book quoted by Nissim-Sabat indicates), in that he favors a postmetaphysical thinking of being, rather than an analysis of the being-in-the-world of Dasein. My interpretation of Heidegger’s phenomenology, however, is not an orthodox or exegetic one, and I am tempted to answer the way Ludwig Binswanger did when faced with the accusation of having misinterpreted Heidegger and turned his philosophy into anthropology: “It might be a false interpretation, but if it is, I find it a very productive one.” We are not forced to follow every step taken by Heidegger on his “path of thinking,” but we should rather proceed phenomenologically on our own paths, using, questioning, and developing the conceptual framework found, for example, in Sein und Zeit. The Zollikoner Seminare, which Heidegger gave together with [End Page 105] Medard Boss during the 1960s, referred to by Bracken in his contribution—provide evidence that even the late Heidegger saw the possibility of wedding his early hermeneutics of everyday existence to a philosophy of medicine.

The analysis of time in Sein und Zeit as the mode of being of Dasein projecting itself out of its thrownness (Geworfenheit) towards the future in a coming-to-be (Zeitigung) appears to me to be just as promising as the absolute flow of Husserl’s inner time-consciousness when it comes to an analysis of the genesis of the self. It is true, as Nissim-Sabat remarks, that I do not devote much time to the reasons why people develop alexithymia (the genesis of the alexithymic self), but this tends to follow from my phenomenological paradigm favoring understanding rather than explanatory causal patterns, and is not a consequence of the absence of an analysis of the genesis of the self in Heidegger’s philosophy. The fact that phenomenological genetic patterns cannot be easily assimilated into the psychoanalytic stories of repression and regression is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, I see the mission of phenomenology in psychiatry to be one of offering alternatives, and not only complements, to psychoanalytic theory. In response to Nissim...

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