Schizophrenic discourse as disturbed relating

R.G.T. Gipps

Chartered Clinical Psychologist, Student Welfare and Support Services, University of Oxford, UK

There is a widespread intuition in psychopathology of a deep relationship between the opaque and confused conversation that manifests schizophrenic thought disorder and a disturbance in social relating. Different visions of human mindedness make for different theorisations of this relationship. Thus, cognitive theories sometimes presume a fundamental separability of thought and communication. This separability allows conversational disturbance to be chalked up to a merely presentational failure in the sharing of allegedly intact thoughts – one caused, for example, by a failure in social judgement as to what can and can’t be expected by way of the listener’s comprehension and knowledge. A phenomenological theory, by contrast, both eschews such a separation of thought and communication, and suggests a deeper relation between social relating and thought. In its ontological vision our capacity to think is not understood as antecedent to our capacity to communicate, and our individuation as distinct thinking subjects is not understood as antecedent to our capacity to relate. This understanding of the relation between selfhood, communication and thought as, instead, equiprimordial and co-constitutive, helps us grasp in its formal aspect the depth of the relation between thought disorder and disturbed social relating, but requires supplementation from psychoanalytical psychology in order for us to truly grasp the nature of this relation in its intentional character: namely in terms of the essentially affective and motivated character of those meaningful social relationships in which selfhood and subjectivity are established. With an eye to both phenomenological and psychoanalytical perspectives we can grasp how, through their effect on the constitution of subjectivity, relational difficulties affect the very constitution of such thought as is immanent in meaningful conversation.

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