The approach of Jaspers

The German physician and philosopher Karl Jaspers was the first to apply the phenomenological method to psychiatry. (78) According to Jaspers, phenomenology is a 'descriptive psychology'. It is strongly related to facts and delivers a unbiased description of patients' experiences. Jaspers combined an appeal to empathy (Einfuhlen) with immediate understanding (Verstehen) of the other person, without exploiting phenomenological techniques of self-reduction, free variation in imagination, and intuition of essential features. However, the present author does not share the opinion of Berrios, (9) who strongly contrasted Husserl and Jaspers. The differences between them are not so extreme as claimed by Berrios, at least not as far as the application of their phenomenological approaches to psychiatry are concerned. Some of Jaspers' statements illustrate this opinion: 'Phenomenology relates to what is experienced as real; it observes the psyche "from inside" through immediate representation (Vergegenwartigung), or '[He] who has no eyes cannot practice histology; [he] who repudiates himself or is unable to image the psyche and to perceive it as a living entity, can never understand phenomenology.'(7) Thus Jaspers' points of departure were in fact the same as those of Husserl: the return to things, the intentionality of psychic phenomena, and the change from a natural to a phenomenological attitude. A scrupulous search of the writings of Jaspers eventually also leads us to Husserl's intuition of essences, as when Jaspers call for 'an ordering which puts the phenomena of the psyche together, in accordance with their phenomenological kinship, not unlike that which occurs with the infinitely manifold colours in the rainbow'. (7) Significant American authors, such as Wiggins and Schwartz,(!0,!!) have recently expressed a similar opinion regarding Jaspers' link with Husserl.

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