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".
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-475
Number of pages27
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2001

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