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On approaching schizophrenia through Wittgenstein

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Louis Sass disputes that schizophrenia can be understood successfully according to the hitherto dominant models—for much of what schizophrenics say and do is neither regressive (as psychoanalysis claims) nor just faulty reasoning (as "cognitivists" claim). Sass argues instead that schizophrenics frequently exhibit hyper-rationality, much as philosophers do. He holds that schizophrenic language can after all be interpreted—if we hear it as Wittgenstein hears solipsistic language. I counter first that broadly Winchian considerations undermine both the hermeneutic conception of interpreting other humans in general and Sass's hope of interpreting schizophrenics in particular. I then go on to argue that even if these Winchian considerations are not accepted, Sass in any case doesn't take sufficiently seriously Wittgenstein's use of nonsense as a term of criticism. Solipsism is not something we can understand so as to be able to understand analogically the schizophrenic's "world"—for there is no such thing as understanding it. Solipsism is nonsense, is nothing—there is no "world" there, in solipsists (as I show by reference to Cora Diamond's reading of Wittgenstein). Nor in any actually analogous cases of schizophrenia. Their "alienness" is the alienness of nothingness; roughly, of the fantasy of "logically alien thought".

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2001

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