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DANILO CARGNELLO

From Psychoanalytic Naturalism to


Phenomenological Anthropology (Daseinsanalyse) *
From Freud to Binswanger

()ber Ludwig Binswanger, von Prof. Dr. med. Herbert Binswanger


Ludwig Binswanger wurde 1881 in Kreuzlingen geboren. Er war Schiiler von Eugen
Bleuler und Sigmund Freud; seine Doktorarbeit (Dissertation) absolvierte er unter
der Leitung des damaligen Oberarztes des BurghOlzlis, C. G. lung. Bereits zu seiner
BurghOlzlizeit beschaftigte ihn die Frage, die sein ganzes wissenschaftliches Werk
bestimmen sollte: Was ist der Mensch? Spater lautete seine Frage: was der Psychiater
in der Begegnung mit dem seelisch kranken Menschen "eigentlich wahrnimmt, iiberlegt und tut". Damit strebte er zu den Voraussetzungen, urn die Psychiatrie (und
Psychotherapie) zu einer Wissenschaft im strengeren Sinne des Wortes zu machen.
Sein erstes Buch Einfiihrung in die Probleme der allgemeinen Psychologie war seinen
Lehrern Bleuler und Freud gewidmet. Mit Freud verband ihn eine lebenslangliche
Freundschaft, die durch nichts getriibt worden war. Dies ist urn so bemerkenswerter,
als Binswanger in vielfacher Hinsicht von den Position en Freud's abgewichen ist.
Binswanger schilderte den Werdegang und den besonderen tenor dieser Freundschaft
in seinem 1956 bei Francke in Bern erschienenem Buch: Erinnerungen an Sigmund
Freud. Wir finden hier beispielsweise einen passus iiber Binswangers Festvortrag zu
Freud's 80jahrigem Geburtstag. Der Titellautete: Freuds A uffassung des M enschen
im Lichte der Anthropologie. Die Dberschrift des 3. Teils des Vortrags lautete: "Die
Idee des homo natura im Lichte der Anthropologie". Nachdem Freud diesen Abschnitt spater im Druck gelesen hatte, schrieb er an den Autor: "Ich habe mich immer
nur im Parterre und Souterrain des Gebaudes aufgehalten. Sie behaupten, wenn man
den Gesichtspunkt wechselt, sieht man auch ein oberes Stockwerk, in dem so distinguierte Gaste wie Religion, Kunst u.a. hausen. Sie sind nicht der Ein,zige darin, die
meisten Kulturexemplare des homo natura denken so. Sie sind darin konservativ, ich
revolutionar. Hatte ich noch ein Arbeitsleben vor mir, so getraute ich mich auch
jenen Hochgeborenen eine Wohnstatt in meinem niedrigen Hauschen anzuweisen ... "
Die Arbeit Ludwig Binswangers eine The,orie des Menschen zu ergriinden (Anthropologie) wurde je langer je mehr philosophischer Art, obwohl er sich lange Zeit mit
Aphasie, mit Wandlungen der Tz;aumdeutung von den Griechen bis zur ]etztzeit, mit
dem Raumproblem in der Psychopathologie usw. (urn nur einige seiner Arbeiten aus

* Published by kind permission of Feltrinelli Editore, Milano. Translated from Filoso/ia della
Alienazione e Analisi Esistenziale (Archivio di Filosofia, Organo dell'Istituto di Studi Filosofici)
by Arnold Pomerans.

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Ober Ludwig Binswanger

der fruheren Zeit zu nennen) beschaftigt hatte. Seine philosophischen Studien reich ten
von den Griechen bis zur Moderne; Husserl, Max Scheler, Leopold Ziegler, Martin
Buber und vor allem Martin Heidegger gehorten zu seinen personlichen Bekannten
(urn nur wenige Namen zu nennen). Bis zum Ende der dreissiger Jahre arbeitete
Binswanger an einer phanomenologischen Anthropologie. N ach der Lektiire Martin
Heideggers Sein und Zeit wandelte sich sein philosophisches Weltbild abermals; 1942
vollendete er sein durch Heidegger angeregtes Buch: Grundformen und Erkenntnis
menschlichen Daseins. Damit hatte Binswanger die Existentialphilosophie als erster
in die Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie eingefiihrt. In der Folge erschienen Bucher, in
denen er grosse Krankengeschichten gem ass seiner neuen Konzeption veroffentlichte;
ebenso der Schizophrenie gewidmet ist das Buch: Drei Formen missgluckten Daseins
liber Verstiegenheit, Verschrobenheit und Manieriertheit. In dies en Arbeiten setzte er
die Erforschung der mitmenschlichen Beziehungen und die Verankerung von Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie in der zum Wesen des Menschen gehorenden Begegnung
mit dem anderen Menschen weiter fort. So reichte allmahlich der Begriff der phanomenologischen Anthropologie nicht mehr aus und es entstand die sog. Daseinsanalyse. Binswanger unterstrich mundlich und schriftlich, dass dies eine besondere
Art der Betrachtung, nicht aber eine andersartige oder neuartige Psychotherapie
sei. Dies wurde spater erst von Boss inauguriert.
Es ist wichtig, diese Tatsache auch hier nochmals zu unterstreichen.
Ludwig Binswanger by Prof. Herbert Binswanger, M.D.
Ludwig Binswanger was born at Kreuzlingen in 1881. He studied under Eugen Bleuler
and Sigmund Freud, and prepared his doctoral thesis under the supervision of the
then medical superintendent of Burgholzli, Dr. C. G. Jung. Even at that early stage in
his career, he posed the question that was to underlie all his scientific endeavours, to
wit: What is man? Later, in an endeavour to set psychiatry (and psychotherapy) on
strictly scientific foundations, he put the question in another way: what does the
psychiatrist actually observe, think and do when he comes face to face with his patient? His first book, Einfuhrung in die Probleme der allgemeinen Psychologie (Introduction to the Problems of General Psychology) was dedicated to Bleuler and Freud. He
kept up his friendship with Freud throughout his life, which is most remarkable when
one considers that they adopted quite different positions. Binswanger described the
history and the special flavour of this friendship in his Erinnerungen an Sigmund
Freud (Recollections of Sigmund Freud; Berne, 1956). It contains a passage from Binswanger's valedictory address on the occasion of Freud's 80th birthday, entitled
"Freud's conception of man in the light of anthropology," and when Freud saw it, and
particularly the section devoted to "the idea of homo natura in the light of anthropology," he wrote to the author: "I have always lived on the ground floor and basement
of the building - you mention that on changing one's viewpoint one can also see an
upper floor, housing such distinguished guests as religion, art and others. You are not

Danilo Cargnello

73

the only one; most cultivated specimens of homo natura think likewise. In this respect
you are the conservative, I the revolutionary. If I had another life of work ahead of
me, I would dare to offer even those high-born people a home in my lowly hut ... "
Ludwig Binswanger's endeavours to establish a theory of man (anthropology) became increasingly philosophical as time went on, and this despite the fact that he did
a great deal of original work on aphasia, on the development of dream interpretation
from antiquity to the present, and on the problem of space in psychopathology - to
mention but a few of his early studies. His philosophical investigations ranged from
the Greeks to modern times; Husserl, Max Scheler, Leopold Ziegler, Martin Buber
and, above all, Martin Heidegger were among his many personal friends. Up to the end
of the thirties, Binswanger worked in the fields of phenomenological anthropology.
After reading Heidegger's Existence and Time, his philosophical outlook changed
markedly, and it was Heidegger who inspired him to write the Grundformen und Erkenntnis menschlichen Daseins (The Fundamental Forms and Cognition of Human
Existence; 1942), and thus to introduce existentialist ideas into psychiatry and psychotherapy. It was followed by a series of detailed case histories, in which his new
insights were applied to excellent advantage. His Drei Formen missglUckten Daseins
(Three Forms of Impaired Existence) dealt with schizophrenia and quite particularly
with eccentric, perverse and stilted behaviour. In all these books he continued his research into interhuman relationships and showed how deeply rooted psychiatry and
psychotherapy are in man's essential meeting with his fellows. As a result, he was
forced to go beyond phenomenological anthropology and to introduce existential
analysis (Daseins-analyse). In his lectures and his writings, Binswanger kept stressing
that this was a special point of view, not a different or novel type of psychotherapy.
The latter was introduced by Medard Boss, a point that cannot be emphasized enough.

TRANSLATED BY ARNOLD POMERANS

The two terms in the title of this paper refer to Freudian psychoanalysis and to the
anthropological and phenomenological analysis, or more simply the anthropoanalysis
(Daseinsanalyse) of Ludwig Binswanger. Now, the two are by no means incompatible, 1
but while psychoanalysis is first and foremost a method of psychotherapy and as such
aims chiefly at restoring the patient's "health," anthropoanalysis is primarily concerned
with discovering the phenomenological and anthropological essence of the symptoms,
1

Cf. my Antropoanalisi e Psicoanalisi (Arch. Psicol. Neur. Psich., Vol. IV, 1949).

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Danilo CargneUo

syndromes and the psychopathological and clinical picture (without, however, precluding a possible development towards a therapeutic methodology).2
The work of Binswanger (for many years an orthodox psychoanalyst), is studded
with explicit references to Freud; and even where these are absent, Freud's presence
makes itself felt quite palpably. In fact, Freud played a crucial part in the development of Binswanger's thought. 3 The two were, however, a generation apart, and the
history of science did not stand still in the interval; nor did the voice of its major
protagonists remain unchanged.
For the rest, anthropoanalysis 4 does not clash with any other theory; it is first and
foremost a discursive way of theorizing within the framework of various working
hypotheses, and recognizes but one principle: that it is in fact atheoretical (Die
Daseinsanalyse ist theoretisch theorienlos). It was born from its founder's deep interest
in the meaning and scope of "understanding" in psychopathology, and his desire to
establish some order in that chaotic confusion of attitudes, concepts and facts which
constitutes psychiatry.
Binswanger (to whom alienists owe a great debt for his unforgettable analyses of
concrete cases and of particular psychopathological manifestations, and who did so
much to further our understanding of the singularity - and hence the humanity - of
singular cases) himself put it as follows: "Of all the many and interesting problems of
psychiatry, the most important for me, and also the most impelling, has always been
that of psychiatry itself." 5 His own thought, in fact, grew from his close contact
with psychiatric theory and quite especially with psychoanalytic theory. And it is only
fitting to add that it was from Freudianism, in practice rather than theory, that he
derived his greatest impetus.
Having said this, we must now go on to examine, first, from what sources of
European culture psychoanalysis and hence anthropoanalysis have sprung, and
second, what forces have caused the transformation of the one into the other.
Cf. Daseinsanalyse und Psychoterapie (Vortrage und Aufsatze, II).
The close links between the two men emerge clearly from the following message by Binswanger to Freud's widow and daughter, on the occasion of Freud's death: "As you know, it was
not only his scientific work and genuis that bound me to the deceased, nor yet the fact that he
had a decisive influence on my entire career. Above all, I remember him for the profound impression his greatness and his indomitable spiritual and moral strength have made on me for
decades. And all that was cemented by my profound affection for him ... " (From Erinnerungen
an Sigmund Freud, p. II8). The correspondence between the two men, which covered a period of
thirty years (1908-1938), included 101 letters from Freud, the most important of which can be
found in the above-mentioned work.
4 Throughout this paper I have rendered Daseinsanalyse as anthropoanalysis, although that
term is far less specific. In fact, all analyses of Dasein (existence) must be anthropological (in the
wider sense of the word); moreover, any anthropological analysis true to its task (i.e. the study of
man's humanity, of man's existence) is bound to be phenomenological. It was Binswanger himself who, in a brief French paper, suggested that Daseinsanalyse should be translated as "Phenomenological Anthropology" ("Anthropophenomenological analysis"), thus discarding the term
"existential analysis," which has caused so much misunderstanding and is, moreover, so often
used in a sense quite different from ours.
5 Der Mensch in der Psychiatrie, (M), p. 13.
2

From Psychoanalytic Naturalism to Phenomenological Anthropology

75

These basic problems were examined by Binswanger himself in one of his most
famous papers - the address he was invited to read on 7 May, 1936, on the occasion of
Freud's eightieth birthday.6
In that paper, Binswanger "not only revealed Freud's doctrine in all its psychological (and hence naturalistic) necessity" but, more important still, he pointed out
its "specific limitation in its confrontation with man's humanity." 7
According to Binswanger, Freud's man was homo natura, man in relation to nature.
The adoption of that view, neglected or ignored before him, was one of the great
contributions of the founder of psychoanalysis, who thereafter defended it with all
the force and conviction he could muster. 8
Now it is significant that Freud's homo natura should have made his debut so late
in the day, when theologians had for centuries been describing man as homo aeternis
aut caelestis, and philosophers, in the fullness of time, as homo universalis, i.e. as the
type of man exemplified by Leonardo da Vinci and by Goethe.
At a memorable meeting in Vienna in September, 1927,9 Freud told Binswanger:
"Mankind has been told time and again that it is full of spirit, it is high time it were
shown that it has instincts as well!" For Freud, in fact, man's instincts were the
authentic psychological reality - the rest was an epiphenomenal mask. It was in the
libido that human reality (Wahrhaftigkeit) must be sought, and also man's authenticity (sincerity, truthfulness). And in fact, Freud's method was simply an unmasking
technique (Entlarvungstechnik), meant to get at the "real" man. It remorselessly led
him to the conclusion that man was his nature, - the very nature which society condemns as evil. Now, for Freud, the "evil" was something positive while the "good"
was simply the mask society required the individual to don before he was accepted.
In fact, Freud's natural man is not a real man, but merely a particular conception of
man and a reductive interpretation at that. One of the weakest points of the Freudian
doctrine is precisely that it should have mistaken so abstract an idea for the very
reality of man. With this postulation we are bound to lose sight of man's humanity, and
we must needs translate man's history into natural "history" (I have put the word
"history" in inverted commas because while nature conditions man's history she cannot write it). "Freud's idea of homo natura is a scientific construction, demanding the
prior destruction of interhuman experience, of man's relation with his fellows, of his
anthropological experience." 10 And it is this concept of homo natura with which
anthropoanalysis has taken issue and which it has opposed with the concept of homo
existentialis.
Anthropology is concerned with restoring man to his authentic dimensions, and to
reintegrating him in his wholeness; to recognize that he is more and other than the
Freuds Auftassung yom Menschen im Lichte der Anthropologie (V.u.A., I), passim.
Vortriige und Au/siitze, I, Vorwort, p. 10.
S Freuds Auftassung ... , p. 159.
9 Freud und die Ver/assung der klinischen Psychiatrie (V.u.A., II) p. 81 f. Also mentioned in:
Erinnerungen an Sigmund Freud, pp. 95-99.
10 Freuds Auftassung .,. (V.u.A., I), p. 175 f.
6

Danilo Cargnello

mechanism he is postulated to be ex hypothesi; to indicate the fundamental forms in


which he presents himself as a human existence (menschliches Dasein); to replace the
"conception" of homo natura with the original "phenomenon" of man's being-in-theworld; in brief, to show man as he really is - as homo existentialis.1 1
II
Let us now look at the bases and the cultural climate in which Freud established his
theory, ignoring for the moment the question (to which we shall be returning) whether
his psychoanalysis has kept within its proper theoretical limits or whether it exceeds
them "in practice." In other words, we shall merely examine how Freud arrived at the
fundamental concept of man as homo natura. 12
Freud was a physician. His original work was concerned with the nervous system
of lower animals; subsequently, he turned his attention to neurology and psychiatry
in a more strictly clinical sense. Then, in 1891, he published a 63-page article on aphasia (Zur Aulfassung der Aphasien) which gave a first hint of his dynamic and
functional conception of the psyche. Freud, the psychoanalyst, appeared much later.
And for that very reason it is fitting that we should look at the cultural climate of
neuro-histology and, above all, of clinical neuropsychiatry (to which he devoted 28
papers) during his early life. 13
The view of Griesinger (who is generally considered the father of German psychiatry) that "mental disorders are disorders of the brain" was radically transformed by
the great clinical practitioners of the anatomico-clinical period, and quite particularly by Meynert and Wernicke, whom Freud acknowledged as his masters.14
For Meynert, one of Freud's teachers, the brain was simply a gigantic centre of
stimuli and counter-stimuli, of urges and inhibitions, generated and maintained by
sensory contact with the external world; it was an organism comparable to an immense amoeba whose pseudopodia (the sense organs!) stretched out into the external
world, ready to seize its objects or to draw back depending on need or opportunity.
The psyche was but the epiphenomenon of this intricate process; it had neither choice
nor autonomy, but was fully determined by its underlying anatomical factors. For
Meynert, psychology and psychiatry were scientific only inasmuch as they could
interpret psychological or psychopathological phenomena in anatomico-physiological
terms. To him, the fundamental problem of psychology was a causal one; and even
"The essence of the present is its existence" - Heidegger.
Freuds Auflassung vom Menschen im Lichte del' Anthropologie (V.u.A., I), passim.
Freud und die Verfassung del' klinischen Psychiatrie (V.u.A., II), passim.
For the biological origins of psychiatry see also: M. Dorer: Historische Grundlagen del' Psychoanalyse, Leipzig, 1932; E. Jones: The life and work of Sigmund Freud, London, 1953; E. Stengel:
Die Wurzeln del' Psychoanalyse in del' Biologie in Freud in del' Gegenwart, Frankfurt, 1957; and
articles by E. Stengel (Psyche, VIII, 17-1954/5); P. Vogel (Schw. Arch. Neurol. Psych. 78, 2741956); A. Binswanger (Psyche, XI-I 960) ; W. Brautigam (Evol. Psych., XXV, 63-1960).
14 Carl Wernicke (1848-1905) taught at Breslau from 1885-1904, and for a further year at
Halle. Theodor Meynert (1833-1892) taught at Vienna from 1870 to his death.
11

12
13

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77

when he spoke of the "mental apparatus" he was merely referring to the underlying
anatomical structure. The topographical principle was the most important: not the
person, but his brain thought in given zones, felt in others, recorded in yet others, and
so on. While Freud did not, of course, take over this rigidly topographical approach
(which now strikes us as rather ingenuous), he was, however, influenced by it when he
formulated some of his earlier theoretical postulates, as we shall see below.
Meynert's ideas soon afterwards found a leading exponent in Wernicke (another
pupil), who used the great anatomico-clinical discoveries of his day to establish the
doctrine on what looked like lasting foundations. And so, as we pass from Griesinger
to Meynert, from Meynert to Wernicke, from Wernicke to Liepmann, from Liepmann
to Kleist, and from Kleist to' various disciples, we find that what was originally
presented as no more than a brilliant hypothesis, became an increasingly rigid theory,
to finish up as an unshakeable dogma.
In Wernicke's hands, Meynert's anatomical psychiatry became the clinical anatomy
of the cerebral functions. He and his pupils set themselves the task of reducing psychiatry to functional neuropathology; contending that contemporary alienists were
simply accumulating a mass of provisional and ephemeral data, they tried to substitute what they considered were truly scientific, i.e. anatomical and functional, formulations.
Now this approach could not have been so very far from Freud's mind when he
wrote: "The shortcomings in our descriptions will most probably vanish once we begin to replace psychological with physical and chemical terms" (G. W., XIII, 65).
All these grandiose plans were given a great boost by the discovery of sensory
aphasia (to mention but this one condition). Wernicke, as Binswanger so rightly
pointed out, "turned the mind into a neuropathological object." More strongly even
than Meynert, he thus underlined the dynamic character of psychological or psychopathological manifestations. For Wernicke, the psyche and mental diseases were a
chimera of traits and symptoms; mental diseases in particular were overall psychological modifications resulting from an impaired nervous function (whence diseases
of ideation, intelligence, affectivity, memory and even of the will, etc.). He held that all
clinical investigations must begin with an analysis of the functions, taken one by one,
and mistook for psychological reality what was, in fact, no more than a working
hypothesis. There is no doubt, however, that Wernicke's clinical practice was something quite other than his theory, and this applies equally to many other alienists,
indeed to some of the greatest among them (we have only to think of Bleuler,15 and
as we shall see, of Freud).16
Another great name deserving special mention here, although it occurs far less often
Bleulers geistige Gestalt, (V.u.A., II).
"As we cannot demolish Bleuler by a mere critique of his concept of association, since, in
fact, his vision went far beyond what that concept could possibly express or represent, so we
cannot demolish Freud by holding him to the letter of his doctrine." (Geschehnis und Erlebnis,
V.u.A., II, p. 166).
15

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in Freud's writings, is that of Hughlings Jackson. 17 For it was this famous teacher of
neuropsychiatry who put forward ideas on the development and disintegration of the
functions, that may be considered the very model (mutatis mutandis, of course!) of the
Freudian concepts of the development and regression of the libido. Jackson asserted
that the functions evolve from the lower, more automatic and more simply organized,
to the higher, more voluntary and less organized. From this premise, he concluded that
mental disorders were a disharmonious dissolution of the higher into the lower functions, which, being more highly organized, are the more capable of resisting morbid
attack and hence of maintaining themselves. Now, this distinction is remarkably
similar to Freud's contrast between the "strong" Id and the "weak" Ego. The similarity becomes greater still when we recall another of Jackson's dicta: that the disintegrating higher functions end up by becoming integrated at a lower level of the
neuropsychological apparatus - at a level that has been long surpassed in functional
evolution. This view resembles Freud's doctrine in several respects: we have only to
think of fixation, regression and even repression. We might add that Jackson laid even
greater emphasis than Wernicke on the dynamic character of the psychological
functions.
And so we come to Freud himself. Freud, too, spoke of a "psychological organism,"
though he did not define it in anatomical terms. However, the influence of Meynert
and Wernicke were quite unmistakable. Psychological manifestations must always be
related to an "organism," an "organ" or a "psychological apparatus"; they are
reified, although not explicitly so, and invariably treated as epiphenomena of the
"apparatus. "
True, Wernicke's "functions" were no longer the ultimate "elements" of mental
activity - to Freud, the ultimate, primordial and irreducible" elements" of the psychological apparatus, indefinable in their essence, and semi-mythical 18 (as Freud himself
put it in a now famous passage) in their incomprehensibility and ineffability, in their
refusal to yield to an adequate definition, to attempts at rational explanation, and yet
omnipresent and all-determining, were the instincts (Triebe).
The very functions of Wernicke - the anatomico-clinical functions of the nervous
system - take second place to these primordial impulses, by which they are initiated
and maintained, modified and, above all, directed.
The psychological organism is sustained by an indomitable natural force: the libido.
It is difficult to say what precisely this "force of nature" is, and we must agree with
Binswanger that "it is neither a psychological entity nor can it be clearly defined in
physiological terms." 19 It is simply a tendency arising at the boundary of psyche and
soma, one which - expressing itself either as a life instinct (Lebenstrieb) or a death
instinct (Todestrieb) - underlies every fundamental biological event, and calls forth
H. Jackson: Die Croon Vorlesungen uber Aufbauund Abbau des Nervensystems (Berlin, 1927).
in Freud's instinct, there hides that metaphysical devil which psychiatrists see moving
and stirring in the cerebral cortex" (!) (Psychoanalyse und klinische Psychiatrie, V.u.A., II, p. 54).
19 Freud und die Verfassung del' klinischen Psychiatrie (V.u.A., II), p. 99 f.
17

18 " .

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every assimilative and constructive impulse, or else every disintegrative, regressive,


and destructive impulse. The libido is intimately linked to the search for pleasure and
the avoidance of pain (the pleasure principle) - even the death instinct is subservient
to the pleasure principle,
the pleasure of putting a stop to all suffering.
Hence, to Freud, the libidinal search for satisfaction is the only significant human
striving (Bedeutungsrichtung). He thus reduces man to a purely hedonistic creature.
The libido never expresses itself directly, but invariably alights on an "object": the
body. Here it "manifests" itself - somatologically and somatographically - through
the very zone (erogenous zone) in which, at a given stage of its development, it has
found its satisfaction, or rather the possibility of satisfaction.
Despite his special terminology and a number of crucial differences from his predecessors, Freud's theory is therefore a kind of (vital-libidinal) naturalism analogous to
the (anatomical) naturalism of Meynert, and the (functional) naturalism of Wernicke.
Like them, he treats the psyche as a mere epiphenomenon.
On this basis, Freud intended, more or less deliberately, to fit psychology and
psychopathology into the framework of natural science. Turning the psyche - healthy
or otherwise - into an "object" of scientific investigation, is tantamount to concentrating on a causal and genetic problem. Now, natural science is not so much concerned
with discovering, for instance, the "rosiness" of roses, as with establishing the cause
and stage-by-stage development of what appears to an observer as a rose; it asks for
the "cause" of a phenomenon rather than delve into the phenomenal quality of the
phenomenon itself, into its phenomenality or "suchness."
(Here we might mention in parenthesis that whereas the pleasure principle, that
cardinal tenet of psychoanalysis, being goal-directed, is obviously teleological, the
causality principle goes back to the past. Hence, in addition to the profound contradictions which, as we shall see, exist between psychoanalytic theory and practice, the
theory itself is marred by a fundamental antithesis).
"In its consistent belief that man must be considered in only one sector of his being
and in basing itself on only one of his categorical aspects - his 'naturality,' ...
Freudian thought agrees with classical psychiatry." 20 By fully accepting this naturalistic thesis, the founder of psychoanalysis was faithful to his teachers and to his
experiences as a young neurohistologist and neurologist; the fact that he was able to
construct a gigantic and highly original edifice on that basis is quite another matter.
Other prevailing conceptions, from different cultural spheres, also influenced
Freud's formulation of his theory.
The physics of his day (mainly through the psycho-physical ideas of Fechner)
taught him to treat the libido in quantitative, energetic terms: the libido was a type
of energy which could become transformed into its various manifestations, but which
could never be destroyed. Thus when the libidinal charge fails to invest one object, it
turns on another, or remains suspended, but never becomes dissipated. (The Freudian

i.e.

20

Freud und die Ver/assung der klinischen Psychiatrie (V.u.A., II). p. 84.

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concept of displacement is a clear case in point.) The libido obeys the principle of the
conservation of energy (Freud himself spoke of the psycho-economics of mental
energy exchange!). Man was thus transformed into a reservoir of forces - his quantitative approach (which in the psychological sphere can have no more than a purely
metaphorical value) led Freud to ignore psychological contents in their intrinsic
modality.
Freud derived yet another principle from physics (perhaps from Jackson, not to
mention Herbart 21 ): the libido is a force in a constant state of dynamic agitation and
as such combines with, or is opposed by, other forces (the force of the Id, the force of
the Ego, the force of the Super-ego). In brief, like any physical force, it obeys the laws
of dynamics - it moves and its movement is its very life.
Yet another of Freud's concepts was rooted in the ideas of his day: the topological
description of mental phenomena. Clearly, the Super-ego, standing as it does "above"
the Ego, and the Ego which stands above the Id, are purely topological descriptions;
and what else is "depth" analysis? There is little doubt but that this kind of topologization of psychological "facts" reflects the positivistic, naturalistic and anatomicophysiological premises of Freudian psychology. (Language, that infallible pointer to
the essence of things, once again proves a reliable guide.)
From Wernicke's neurologism and from contemporary physics, Freud also borrowed
his mechanical conception of mental life. Here we need merely mention the "mechanisms" of sublimation and repression, of introjection and projection, of censorship and
above all, of repetition. To Freud, psychopathological manifestations were simply
repetitions, albeit masked, of previous situations over which the libido stumbled and
came to a halt. As far as psychoanalysis is concerned, all that matters is the discovery of what remains "fundamentally" unchanged during the various transformations.
To the economic, dynamic, topological and mechanical principles underlying
psychoanalytic theory, Freud added the concept of psycho-physical relationships
(shades of Fechner!) : the mental may become transformed into the somatic and the
somatic into the mental, while the total libidinal energy remains unchanged. No wonder then that, to the unbiased observer, the Freudian doctrine appears not only as a
somatology but even as a clear somatography of the human being.
Another aspect of the Freudian doctrine also deserves stressing, if only because it
has evoked so much critical consideration by modern phenomenological anthropologists, namely the objectivization of what is clearly SUbjective. The subject, in fact,
is treated as an "object" of analysis, like any other object, and so are all the other
persons with whom he comes into contact. Nor could it be otherwise in a doctrine
21 It would be most interesting to look more fully into the relationship between Herbart's
philosophical ideas (particularly as expressed in his Psychologie als Wissenschalt) and Freud's
psychoanalysis. Thus Herbart, too, considered life as the interaction of forces, combining or
counteracting in accordance with a law of dynamics; he spoke of the limited compass of consciousness, introduced the threshold of consciousness, the mutual attraction or repulsion of
various representationaL"masses", dream displacement, etc., etc.

From Psychoanalytic Naturalism to Phenomenological Anthropology

81

that proclaims itself naturalistic ex professo. The Ego (derived from the libido!) belongs to Tom, Dick and Harry, much as their heart, stomach, or hands. The mental
apparatus "has" an Ego just as it "has" an Id and a Super-ego, all of them functions of
this "organism." Depersonalization in psychoanalytic theory (no less than in classical
psychiatry) finally arrives at the point when it can no longer say I, You, He, or Me,
You, Him but "his Ego," "his Id," etc., thus reifying pronouns into functions.
When, for instance, we say: "I assert," "You tend to believe," "We are agreed,"
etc., there is no doubtthat the presence which "asserts," "tends to believe" or "agrees"
is respectively my, your, or our presence, But, according to Binswanger, Freudians
treat even interhuman communications, i.e. the dual or plural relations between one
person and another or others, as if they did not involve "a presence such as mine,
yours, his or ours." The very moment this "mine," "yours," "ours," this "I," "You"
or "We" are put in inverted commas, "psychology becomes impersonal and 'objectified,'
thus losing its character of a true psychology to become a science of nature." 22

III
In the preceding pages we have tried to show that psychoanalytic theory agrees
very considerably with the naturalistic approach of classical neuropsychiatry, and
quite particularly with the neuropsychiatry of Freud's day. Like the latter, doctrinaire
Freudianism seems to accept in full the methodological validity of splitting mental phenomena into their (presumed) components, the better to reconstruct them according to
given postulates of theoretical biology. But is psychoanalysis really equal to this task of
"decomposition" and "reduction" in practice? Can it justify all its results within this
theoretical framework?
No one denies - and this fact is worth re-emphasizing - that psychoanalysis is
above all a practical form of therapy, and it is as such that it must chiefly be judged.
We shall now see in what respects psychoanalytic practice discards both the theory on
which it seems to be based and also the teachings of classical psychiatry.
If we retrace our steps along the difficult path followed by Binswanger - a path he
himself has recalled in a particularly evocative text (Mein Weg zu Freud) - we shall
arrive at a number of extremely important conclusions.
After first giving unconditional support to Freud and scrupulously applying his
technique (as witness his writings during these early years 23), Binswanger - who always acknowledged Freud as his master and never denied the "practical" usefulness
of Freud's method - found it necessary to rethink his position and, as a result, he felt
impelled, not to repUdiate Freud as so many others had done,24 but to recognize the
Freuds Auflassung vom Menschen im Lichte der Anthropologie, (V.u.A., I), p. 179 f.
Versuch einer Hysterie-A nalyse, 1909; Analyse einer hysterischen Phobie, 191 I; Psychoanalyse
und klinische Psychiatrie, 1920; and also parts of his Wandlungen in der A uffassung und Deutung
des Traumes ... , 1928.
24 Cf. the last paragraph.
22

23

82

Danilo Cargnello

one-sidedness of psychoanalysis in its confrontation with man. This conclusion caused


him to recognize the essential difference between the theoretical naturalism of the
Freudian dogma and the practical meaning of psychoanalysis.
In practice, psychoanalytic treatment "considers the person without ever losing
sight of his wholeness." "In contrast to the psychiatry of his time, which split up the
psyche into parts, Freud, in his practical work, never lost sight of its integrity, and
never attempted to fragmentize it." "Psychoanalysis does not subdivide the personality into functions or specifications of whatever kind; it delves into those aspects and
factors that most essentially inhere in the psychological event, thus preserving the
unity of the event itself." 25
But on what basis could the practical psychoanalyst take account of this personal
integrity, with what criteria could he continue to treat his patients as indissoluble
entities? Only in the - explicit or implicit - recognition that the very life of the
individual confronting him consists in the contradiction, the antinomy, of his essential aspects; in the recognition that the individual exists and, need we add, that he
exists and subsists precisely in his conflict. The acceptance in "practice" of this "fact"
is full of implications. One of its direct corollaries is that the personality is not something that experiences events passively, that it does not incorporate them as mere
accretions, but that it makes them its own, or else rejects them decisively. How far
Freud had moved from his neurological models (Meynert and Wernicke) and from his
economic and dynamical theory! In the practical view, the personality was no longer
a mere "organism," seen as the passive seat of stimuli and counter-stimuli or as a
mere reservoir of blind impulses in search of satisfaction.
The personality was "other" than purely "natural" not least because of "selfdeception." The claim that its conflictual character was based on two inherent factors:
the unconscious and the conscious, of which the second was subservient to the first, so
much so that man has but little chance of being master in "his own house," was yet
another purely theoretical speculation, but one that in no way diminished the conflictual, and inherently dialogical essence of the personality which Freud had to
grant whenever he wore the therapist's garb.
Nor is the treatment of the personality the only way in which practical psychoanalysis differs from psychoanalytic theory. Its two "main pillars" (Freud's own
words) are transference (Obertragung) and resistance (Widerstand) , and neither can
possibly be fitted into a purely mechanistic and functionalist doctrine. And yet
without transference and resistance, psychoanalytic practice would be wholly unthinkable. As Medard Boss put it so appositely: "[In psychoanalytic practice] transference and resistance predominate; in theory it is the cerebral organ and the sensory
organs ... Now, the phenomena known as transference and resistance are incontestably phenomena that reflect a co-existensive relationship, a relationship between
man and man. Moreover, neither the concept of conscious acts nor the idea of an
25

Psychoanalyse und klinische Psychiatrie, V.u.A., II, p. ff.

From Psychoanalytic Naturalism to Phenomenological Anthropology

83

isolated mental organ can possibly correspond to immediate reality." 26 Binswanger


himself put it even better when he wrote: "When (Freud) posited the internal existence of the analyst vis-a-vis the internal existence of the analysand, he ceased to be
a naturalist" - he had, in fact, turned anthropologist. 27
Because of this ambiguity, which led Freud to waver between a purely biological
approach (we need only think of the concept of a psychological organism) and a
frankly anthropological one (e.g. the interhuman "encounter" in the transference),
many people have asked themselves and continue to ask themselves what precisely is
the epistemological position of psychoanalysis among the sciences. 28
We saw that, while psychoanalysis calls itself a natural science in theory, it fails to
justify itself as such in practice. "Psychoanalysis," wrote Brautigam,29 "is ... to
some a method which, by upholding psychogenesis, i.e. the dependence of mental and
psychosomatic disorders on the external world, rejects physical facts; while others
blame psychoanalysis for being too steeped in biological thought." And so, acrimonious arguments continue to rage round Freud's name - much more acrimonious, let
it be said, than those he originally evoked when he threw light on a number of
disturbing aspects of our human condition.
As everyone knows, all sciences include interpretation in their arsenal, as an indispensable way of mustering a host of apparently unrelated facts. Every science, moreover, has a specific manner of interpretation, which must be formally adequate to the
doctrinal field in which it is engaged.
Now, when it comes to psychoanalysis, it is extremely difficult to establish what
precisely its manner of interpretation consists of. Psychoanalytic interpretation is
interpretation sui generis, highly complex and above all heterogeneous; it involves a
host of different modalities, difficult to interrelate because of their essential differences, modalities that go (it would be saying too much to claim that they become
integrated) into the instrumental approach to psychotherapeutic practice, and which
cannot possibly be covered by a definition that embraces all the formal aspects in
which it is employed.
This is a problem to which Binswanger,30 in particular, has paid a great deal of attention, and not just incidentally but quite deliberately. Let us see what he had to
say. According to Binswanger, "what Freud called deuten (interpreting) is made up of
different components: actions are variously related to direct experience, to rational
judgement, or to psychological understanding." Here we shall deliberately ignore
Freud's dynamical and functional interpretations since they do not seem to be essential
to his therapeutic practice, but serve mainly to reaffirm his doctrinal premises, orto
modify and complete them in accordance with a method of theoretical construction
that has no counterpart in any other science.
26
27
28
29
30

M. Boss: Psychoanalyse und Daseinsanalytik, Berne, 1957, p. 25.


Freuds Aujjassung vom Menschen ... (V.u.A., I), freely quoted.
Lebensjunktion und innere Lebensgeschichte (V.u.A., I), p. 66.
W. Brautigam, Evol. Psych., XXV, 63-1960.
Erjahren, Verstehen und Deuten in der Psychoanalyse (V.u.A., II). See particularly p. 75.

Danilo Cargnello

Let us look first of all at the analyst's direct experience with the analysand,3! i.e.
the collection of whatever facts about him may be obtained directly: from his attitude,
behaviour, expression, gestures, and, above all, from his utterances.
Now, words are of quite particular importance to the psychoanalyst. In fact, they
not only bear direct witness to the patient's mental state but include contents that
intrinsically refer to quite another factor of the cognitive process. And it is this second
aspect that, above all, calls forth the analyst's full powers of interpretation and that
gives him the first hint how to set about "exploring the depths." "It is only the direct
perception of the analysand that permits one to recognize which of the many possible
hermeneutic interpretations is appropriate to his case." 32
For Freud, gleanings from direct experience do not represent the entire "heuristic
material" of the interpretation. Other, equally "impartial" data (to use Freud's own
term) must also be gathered, among them what the analysand (fortuitously and
casually as he believes) brings up during free association, in his errors, slips of the
tongue, responses to certain key words, and the general manner of speech. Moreover,
as everyone knows, psychoanalysts attach the utmost importance to dreams and
fantasies.
Even in this preliminary work, the psychoanalyst disregards all reports or recollections of the patient's external life.
Though the collection and recollection of all these data is no more than a preliminarytothe hermeneutic task, which in general comes much later, it is nevertheless a
fact that it is not a merely passive act of registration. Hand in hand with it goes a good
deal of psychological understanding, i.e. the conscious evaluation of the material. It is
this understanding which, from time to time, selects from this continuous stream of
information what is worthy of special consideration, i.e. what forms a "suitable"
springboard for the interpretation. Nor is that choice at all times unaffected by the
analyst's theoretical convictions - often it is no less than an interpretation in embryo.
In fact, we may well ask whether the preliminary heuristic work is truly that "impartial" collection of data Freud believed it to be. After all, the work is done by a man
(the analyst, with his own problems, memories, tendencies, shortcomings, etc.) and a
man, moreover, who is the butt of the analysand's transference or, worse, of his
counter-transference.
Nor is that all. "Freud has taught us ... to interpret the patient's 'I cannot' as
'I will not,' and thus to conceive of the I-Not-I as the I-Myself. The very justification
of psychoanalysis hinges on the possibility of that translation or at least on its
validity." 33 Moreover, Freud did not content himself with that equivalence, but also
postulated another, namely I-will-not = It-will-not, i.e. he postulated that the unwillingness resided in the Id, the fundamental part of the unconscious. It is this Id
31 One of Freud's most far-reaching and sagacious analyses, that of Michelangelo's Moses, was
based entirely on his "direct experience" of the famous sculpture.
32 Er/ahren, Verstehen und Deuten ... , p. 7I.
33 Ober Psychotherapie (V.u.A., II), p. 154.

From Psychoanalytic Naturalism to Phenomenological Anthropology

85

which commands or destroys the Ego's volition, which, unable to express itself
directly in words, deforms all the words by which the Ego reveals itself.
Thus while Freud's first fundamental doctrine is clearly anthropological, his second
is vitiated by the theoretical need for reductive hypostatizations.
But in practice, 10 and behold, he is an anthropologist again, a man among men.
In fact, it is an enormous error to believe that Freudian interpretation proper is
limited to the unearthing of, and then acquainting the patient with, the "unconscious
causes" that underlie his morbid manifestations. It is not, in fact, this type of causal
explanation that takes the patient to the goal of psychoanalytic treatment, to his
"cure." The analysand needs more than mere "knowledge," he must also relive those
experiences (Erlebnisse) which he has spontaneously reported to the analyst, and
above all, those experiences which, according to the interpretation, "must have
succeeded them" and pushed them into the unconscious. "Interpretation," said
Binswanger, "only begins when the material (of the contents) ... is infused with life
and re-arranged according to the psychological possibilities (of the analysand)," i.e.
according to his possibility of reliving them. 34 And it is here that we find the gradual
transformation of the I-will-not = It-will-not postulated by Freudian theory into the
I-cannot = I-will-not that the analyst has restored what Buber has called the dialogical life of the I with Itself. In short, we witness the re-emergence of man. And to
that purpose, and also so as to infuse life into what contents have been revealed or
elaborated during the analysis, thus enabling the analysand to "relive" them, the
psychoanalyst is forced to endow the unconscious (postulated as an essence that
cannot be reached) with some of the language and modality of consciousness, to admit
the existence of "unconscious thoughts, volitions, actions, etc.," in short, to consider
the unconscious as a thing, a SUbject, or a second person. 35
As we see, psychoanalytic interpretation is often a heterogeneous way of understanding, involving various formal factors. It is a complex procedure in which the
analyst steps easily from attitude to attitude, from one plane to the next, changing
data, projections and conclusions accordingly, and accepting without question the
validity of this procedure.
When the work of interpretation can no longer proceed from "impartial data," it by
no means grinds to a halt, but simply invokes the experiences of others or similar
situations. If even that proves inadequate, it makes use of hypothetical or purely
theoretical suppositions.
At this stage, psychoanalytic practice draws unstintinglyon psychoanalytic theory,
in an effort to augment or refine its own store of tools. Conversely, psychoanalytic
Er/ahren, Verstehen und Deuten ... , p. 77.
For the same reason, psychoanalysis is forced to give "motivation" a wider meaning than it
normally has: thus it refers as "unconscious motivation"- to the links between a displaced (and
hence subliminal) content and a conscious content. There is, no need to stress the fact that this
usage does not so much tell us about the actual motivational nexus between the two, as about
the relationship between the final result of the hermeneutic elaboration (the latent content) and
the spontaneously expressed content (the manifest content).
34
35

86

Danilo Cargnello

theory tries to expand its own edifice with "discoveries" in the practical field, thus
emulating the natural sciences, which also proceed from "working hypotheses."
Now, while the interpretative technique of psychoanalysis is formally heteroclitic
(so much so that its anomalies are easily shown up) and procedurally irregular, it
nevertheless provides us with a lever for probing the boundless depths of man. The
reason why it should be able to do so, when it is based on a theory that reduces man
to nature, is simple: it is a form of therapy first and a theory second. It involves the
laying on of hands, and its very shortcomings and contradictions dissolve in what we
may call its underlying teleological tension. Interpretation is not so much concerned
with providing "knowledge" of the dynamics of the libido, as with changing the
concrete person whom it has to "cure." No doubt at all that here transference, and
indeed co-existence, are the dominant factors. Its very "teleological tension" removes
psychoanalysis from the plane of natural science. It is this fundamental fact that has
led to its great success, a success that its critics and opponents far from denying have
strongly underlined.

IV
Despite the obvious shortcomings and contradictions of the psychoanalytic procedure, one cannot but give Freud unstinting credit for having added and stressedas no one before him - the importance of man's inner history (innere Lebensgeschichte) :
psychoanalytic practice is little more than the systematic reconstruction (be it only
from a particular viewpoint) of that continuum of intimate experiences which mark
the stages and the path along which an individual recovers his individuality and not
merely the memory of the many vicissitudes through which he has passed. So much
for granted do we nowadays take the need for taking that path if we want to understand anything at all about another, that we tend to forget that by opening it up,
Freud lifted medical psychiatry out of a two-centuries-old habit: the almost exclusive
consideration of the external events in the life of an individual (aussere Lebensgeschichte) and the almost total neglect of the inner events.
Now his methodological stress on the inner story already makes it difficult to
reconcile Freud's "naturalism" with the naturalism, positivism and materialism that
prevailed in his day, both in the philosophical and also in the scientific field. In fact,
though man (as an individual representative of his species) has a natural history, it is
very difficult to identify that history with his inner story, which bears witness to his unique
singularity and to the unique development of that singularity. "It is truly surprising,"
Binswanger wrote, "that the most intense method of probing man's inner story, the
most systematic and patient psychological interpretation, i.e. psychoanalysis, should
at one and the same time represent the most rigid and punctilious attempt to lead this
interpretation into a dynamic and functional, i.e. a naturalistic, path." 36
36

Lebensfunktion und innere Lebensgeschichte (V.u.A., I), p. 66.

From Psychoanalytic Naturalism to Phenomenological Anthropology

8'"'/

In contrast to those clinicians who limit their inquiry to the earliest disturbances,
their prodromes, or at most to their underlying temperamental characterological and
typological assumptions, Freud invariably stressed the need for probing deeper,
going beyond the mass of reports and indications obtained by way of the patient's
recollections, however diligently elicited by the usual clinical techniques, and for
considering these as mere preliminaries to that other later investigation whose main
task it is to prepare the heuristic material for psychoanalytic interpretation. In fact,
in addition to the testimony of the patient's relatives and friends, and to the material
supplied by the patient himself after rummaging in the most remote folds of his own
memory, the psychoanalyst must also look for quite another type of evidence, evidence that the conscious memory of the analysand cannot supply, that "the Ego
cannot remember."
This early state, preceding memory, remains "unknown" to the individual, inasmuch as it refers to remote experiences whose contents cannot re-emerge (they are
not, in fact, repressed or forgotten data, capable of being brought up by a strong and
protracted effort of recollection). Of this state (which he is unable to recall) the individual can, according to psychoanalysis, give but indirect reports: via dream images,
uncontrolled fantasies, free association, errors, slips of the tongue, gestures, etc. The
analyst uses a particular technique - within the transference situation, it should be
remembered! - to interpret all these contents to the analysand, thus teaching him the
highly peculiar, contradictory, ambivalent, ambiguous, unreasonable and overtly
unbelievable language of the unconscious.
To do that, psychoanalysis has to reduce the manifest contents, elicited during the
preliminary heuristic work, into latent contents - it must reduce the form of the
individual's inner story into the form of a story "sui generis": the natural "history"
of its libido. 37
Now, Freud-who in his teachings and above all in practice has shown the way to
plumbing the depths of another who reveals himself to us in order that we may help
and understand him - invariably glossed over the fact that the plane on which the
libido develops as a vital function is quite incompatible with that on which the inner
story'is constructed by the historicizing act. In fact, to Freud, the inner story was
simply an epiphenomenon of the development of the vital libidinal function.
But "when we speak of an inner story, the psyche as function is no longer involved
... but only man, and uniquely so." 38 In fact, by working with libidinal charges,
with the idea that, as the libido develops, it passes on from one erogenous zone to the
next, that a part of it may remain excessively fixed in one of these zones (the oral,
anal, etc.) or become condensed into a particular complex, that the remainder may
regress to a zone that should have been abandoned at an earlier stage of development,
that certain zones can carry an excess of libidinal charge (fixative or regressive) and
thus attract displaced contents - all this can never account for that striking unity
37

38

Der Fall Ellen West (S.), p. 137.


Lebensfunktion und innere Lebensgeschichte (V.u.A., I), p. 57.

88

Danilo Cargnello

that invariably emerges from the inner story of an individual and that does not bear
on his energetic state but on his decision, i.e. on the manner in which he has made his
"natural limit" his own.
The differences in this respect between the naturalistic-functional-genetic and the
anthropological-modal-ontic approach are best illustrated by their respective views
of the links between event (Geschehnis) and experience (Erlebnis).39
When we refer to an event, we normally think of something unexpected, unforeseen
and unusual, something that happens "outside" and takes us by surprise. By "experience," too, we generally refer to something of special importance, but chiefly (or
even solely) to something that happens to us and as such becomes part and parcel of
our inner life, of "ourselves." This distinction between event and experience, between
Geschehnis and Erlebnis, which even the merest novice in psychology can appreciate,
has extremely important theoretical repercussions: it points to the "obvious" existence of pure events, i.e. of events that have a meaning of their own, that are
independent, and that necessarily "determine" a given experience and no other.
However, the idea that events, no matter how intrinsically important, force the
individual to whom they "happen" into endowing them willy-nilly with just one
meaning and no other, and that they must therefore be the causes of the corresponding
experiences, is quite false. 4o The inherent link between Geschehnis and Erlebnis is
causal neither in fact nor even by analogy. Even the boundary case, mentioned by
Jaspers, in which the event would seem to have but a single meaning for one and all,
must, on closer analysis, prove to be no exception. And the same is true of those
events that threaten all the individuals whom they "befall" with equal peril (for
instance, earthquakes). In short, the reduction of the nexus between event and experience to a purely causal relationship, that of stimulus and response, is quite impermissible. "Naturally, the absence of a causal nexus between Geschehnis and Erlebnis does not imply that man cannot be conceived ... as being involved in the mesh of
natural causes ... ; but that view prevents us from seeing him as an experiencing
(erlebende) person, as an individual, within the complex context of his inner history. "41
But if the nexus between Geschehnis and Erlebnis is not a causal one, what, we may
wonder, is it in fact?
Here it is important to guard against another, and even more insidious, error.
Evidently whenever we speak of Erlebnis we cannot but think of Geschehnis: an Erlebnis is both the experience at "something" and also an act at understanding. This
"something" may happen in the external world or within our body (for instance, in
39 This subject is examined at length in Binswanger's Geschehnis und Erlebnis, a paper refuting
one with the same title by Erwin Strauss. Published in 1931 - i.e. a few years before Traum und
Existenz and I deentlucht - this work, notwithstanding its appearance of an occasional text, is of
great importance for the precise understanding of Binswanger's thought, the more so as it
anticipated some of the fundamental principles on which he later built his Daseinsanalyse. (Cf.
the preface to the second volume of Ausgewiihlte Vortriige und Autsiitze, pp. 23-26.)
40 Geschehnis und Erlebnis (V.u.A., II), p. 153 ff.
41 ibid.,~p. 150 (freely quoted).

From Psychoanalytic Naturalism to Phenomenological Anthropology

89

the case of organic disease). Now, if it is true that pure events do not exist, then it
might be thought that the individual himself must necessarily endow the event with
"meaning." However, this assumption, too, has proved untenable on the anthropological plane.
"Man does not simply endow events with meaning; the moment he speaks of,
thinks of or simply encounters an event, he immediately grasps it in a fixed sense,
depending on who and how he is." 42 Sense and meaning can, in fact, be sense and
meaning only and exclusively for the individual, for a certain I and for the world that
is his world. "Indeed, Erlebnis and Geschehnis are modally correlated ... ; the distinction between Geschehnis and meaning is as artificial as that between Erlebnis and
meaning. In fact, meaning is not something interposed between the two poles of
Geschehnis and Erlebnis, it is always related to a given mode of understanding ... on
the part of the individual. And we might add, that the individual and his world, far
from being two opposed poles, are in dialectical relationship ... " 43
We could sum it all up as follows: the pole of experience (Erlebnis), i.e. of individuality, and the pole of event (Geschehnis), i.e. the world of objects, must be seen in
correlation with one and the same ontological constitution, in other words, "in correlation with the highly specific way in which the individual makes decisions and is
open to his existence and inner world." 44 We shall now illustrate this point by way of
a concrete example.
One of Binswanger's most famous analyses was that of Suzanne Urban, a woman
suffering from schizophrenia. She had accompanied her husband, to whom she was
attached with morbid intensity,45 to a urologist, and when she was told that he was
suffering from cancer of the bladder, she was utterly shattered. Her reaction was, of
course, quite "understandable" (both in the popular and also in Jasper's sense of the
word) - most women would have found it so. But for Suzanne it was much more: her
Erlebnis in the consulting-room was the starting-point (not the cause!) of a long series
of inner transformations culminating in complete delirium.
By anthropoanalytic techniques, based on what snatches of herself Suzanne revealed from time to time, it was possible to retrace the existential steps (Daseinsgang)
of her various transformations, the appearance and disappearance of the various
worlds into which she successively projected herself; to identify the corresponding
ontological forms (Daseinsformen) and the new factors introduced with every transformation. Nor did anthropoanalytic interpretation stop short there; it went on to
fathom the ontological basis (Daseinsgrund) underlying and modifying all the various
modes (prepsychoses, psychoses) by which Suzanne expressed herself in turn, until
finally it was able to see her story (of which her clinical history was but a part) as a
manifestation of a possibility - however tragic - open to man: the possibility of being
42
43
44
45

ibid., p. 154 (freely quoted).


ibid., p. 157 (freely quoted).
ibid., p. 156 (freely quoted).
Der Fall Suzanne Urban (S), pp. 363-470.

go

Danilo Cargnello

dominated by terror. The ultimate goal of the analytic endeavour is precisely this: to
discover - by means of a phenomenological technique that appreciates the importance
of eschewing every kind of reductive hypostatization - the essence of a particular
mode of being, the essence, that is, of a particular way of being-in-the-world, in her
case through torture and self-destruction.
When Suzanne heard the shattering news of her husband's illness, her "world"
became changed: it ceased to give her confidence and security and became pitilessly
deaf and indifferent to her pain. For some time this "world" continued to revolve
about its starting-point (the ominous announcement). Not only did Suzanne now live
exclusively in order to tend her husband in his illness, but she now made it her
business to defend him blindly and devotedly against the incomprehension, indifference, incompetence, etc., of everyone else, finally becoming unable to sleep and
ruining her own health. In the process, she gradually lost any possibility of authentic
co-existence; her relatives, acquaintances, physicians, nurses, etc., merged into a grey
mass in which she could no longer identify distinct persons, and which struck her as
being ambiguous, disquieting and, above all, (she was unable to say why) as hostile,
oppressive and suspicious of her every move. Her existence became impoverished and
a great strain. And when this "world" threatened to vanish, Suzanne felt her identity
vanishing with it; during this period, she was gripped by icy anguish and succumbed
increasingly to that crucial human experience of teetering on the brink of the "naked"
void, with nothing to hold her back. The framework - however unpleasant - which
supported her world immediately after the announcement and in which she could
somehow assert her co-existence, was no longer there to support her. Now the only
salvation was her anguish, projected into yet another "world," at this stage the only
possible one: that of delusion and delirium. The ambiguous and incomprehensibly
hostile atmosphere around her took clear shape: she was increasingly gripped by a
kind of delirious "knowledge" and it was this knowledge that allowed her to purge
herself. Now at last she "knew" what it was that kept slandering her, denigrating her,
laughing at her, and dropping obscene hints about her. It was a world peopled with
tormentors, all united in their determination to haunt her. Suzanne readily identified
these tormentors with those in her circle; but she also "knew" that they were all
being egged on by others acting behind the scenes, and these by yet others, and so on
ad infinitum. She no longer had any "near" friends; her "world" was an incomprehensible round and yet a hard reality. It pressed upon her from all sides with sudden
urgency; its colour was an unrelieved grey; its material property "hardness," its
tonality horrible and terrifying. As a result, Suzanne was diminished until all that
was left of her identity was a sense of outrage. She became deceived in all her senses:
repellent and disgusting smells, sardonic and injurious and defamatory voices, bloody
visions, sudden electric charges, etc., assailed her from all sides. "The story of my
life," she claimed, "is one of martyrdom." The infernal destruction machine never
stopped;,the "insolence of the world" revealed itself in all its evil power, and paralysed her very presence, by imposing the continuous need to ward off attacks.

From Psychoanalytic Naturalism to Phenomenological Anthropology

91

Nosologically speaking, Suzanne's was a grave case of schizophrenia, and as such a


fairly common condition.
But when Binswanger took on this "clinically common" case it was not to engage in
nosographic discussions or to fit the various symptoms into a given pathogenic theory
and to interpret them accordingly. He approached the case as an anthropologist, and
tried to elicit Suzanne's inner story and its various reconstructions, with a view to
throwing some light on the constitutive basis of her individuality, the basis underlying all the various modes in which her presence successively manifested itself.
The anthropoanalyst is not concerned with producing a genetic reconstruction of
the delusive state based on the patient's prepsychotic biography, with tracing the
condition back to a pre-existing, constitutional, temperamental or characterological
condition. He knows that constitutionalist and characterological doctrines (for instance, those of Kretschmer), which consider the individual torn from the context of
his "world," can at most say something about his natural limitations, about his
having a character (in Suzanne's case: a suspicious, resentful, and anxious one) or a
psychosomatic constitution (in Suzanne's case: a schizoid one), but nothing about his
attitude to these limitations nor yet about his projection into a "world" (including
this delirious one), in short, about his being-in-the-world. Moreover, even those schools
of psychology which start from the concept of personality or persons fall short of the
demands of phenomenological anthropology, in that they, too, disregard the ontological basis of man.
A fortiori, the anthropoanalyst will eschew the functional approach (above all of
Wernicke) which, basing itself on a fragmented theory of psychological facts, tries to
derive states of delusion from particular mental functions (affectivity, ideation,
jUdgement, imagination, drives, desires, etc., etc.). This applies equally to theoretical
psychoanalysis which presumes to trace delusions back to that peculiar function of
the "psychological organism" which it calls the libido.
After this long digression, we must now return to our original problem, that of the
links between Geschehnis and Erlebnis.
As an anthropologist and phenomenologist, the analyst will not say that the urologist's terrifying and disconcerting announcement was the "cause" of Suzanne's
Erlebrtis, or that the latter by a chain of causal links caused her ultimate delusions.
Nor will he even say that the Geschehnis was the "trigger" which set off the state of
delusion, i.e. that Suzanne merely invested her Erlebnis with what was in fact a
premorbid disposition towards mental illness. Hence he will not presume to trace her
ultimate condition back to the urologist'S announcement, thus immersing himself in a
long chain of ostensibly related events.
The anthropoanalyst will never consider the Erlebnis as the primary motive of the
delirium, as its ultimate explanation. To him, the Erlebnis is a response to a Geschehnis in the very roots of the presence which experiences it, a herald from that fundamental base which alone can turn an Erlebnis (in Suzanne's case, one that was

Danilo Cargnello

92

"obviously" grave, but that need not have been obvious at all) into a delirium, by a
series of modal transformations.
It follows that the anthropoanalyst never treats the content of an Erlebnis as an
isolated fact, divorced from its inherent modal quality, from that phenomenal
quality that "speaks" of an experiencing presence. In other words, the anthropoanalyst does not consider naked contents but contents in their phenomenal intrinsicality, as heralds of a presence, of the "who," the "how," and the "world" of its
self-transcendence.
But let us return to psychoanalysis. Here the naked content of an Erlebnis is invariably isolated, examined for its manifest, and more important, its latent significance, and related to another or other contents, all of them divorced from their
phenomenal quality (or, at least, not fully considered in their possible modal diversity). Nor is that all. Psychoanalysis also relates these contents to some that are
associated with experiences going back to before the emergence of the Ego (by means
of theoretical deductions, or purely by analogy). Moreover, as between the manifest
and latent content, psychoanalysis insists that the second (Le. the assumed) content
is closer to reality than the first (i.e. the given) content - that, while the latent content
can tell us a great deal about the true significance of the manifest content, the
converse is not the case. 46
As we shall see, this position is radically reversed in anthropoanalysis. But before
we come to that, we must do for anthropoanalysis what we have already done for
psychoanalysis, namely, trace it back to its historical sources.

[to be concluded]

Prof. Danilo

46

CARGNELLO,

Psichiatria-Direttore dell'Ospedale Psichiatrico di Brescia.

Der Fall Ellen West (8), p. 118 f.