Open Access Research

No departure to "Pandora"? Using critical phenomenology to differentiate "naive" from "reflective" experience in psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine (A comment on Schwartz and Wiggins, 2010)

Jann E Schlimme12*, Catharina Bonnemann2 and Aaron L Mishara3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Philosophy, Karl Franzens University Graz, Graz, Austria

2 Department of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

3 Department of Clinical Psychology, Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago (IL), USA

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Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2010, 5:15  doi:10.1186/1747-5341-5-15

Published: 31 October 2010


The mind-body problem lies at the heart of the clinical practice of both psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine. In their recent publication, Schwartz and Wiggins address the question of how to understand life as central to the mind-body problem. Drawing on their own use of the phenomenological method, we propose that the mind-body problem is not resolved by a general, evocative appeal to an all encompassing life-concept, but rather falters precisely at the insurmountable difference between "natural" and a "reflective" experience built into phenomenological method itself. Drawing on the works of phenomenologically oriented thinkers, we describe life as inherently "teleological" without collapsing life with our subjective perspective, or stepping over our epistemological limits. From the phenomenology it can be demonstrated that the hypothetical teleological qualities are a reflective reconstruction modelled on human behavioural structure.