BINSWANGER Ludwig—psychiatrist, founder of phenomenological psychopathology, applied the philosophical conceptions of E. Husserl and M. Heidegger in his psychotherapeutic practice, b. April 13, 1881 in Kreuzlingen in Switzerland, d. February 5, 1966 in Kreuzlingen.
Binswanger’s family had been known for several generations for eminent psychologists and psychiatrists. He did his medical studies in Lausanne, Heidelberg, and Zurich (under the direction of C. G. Jung and others). From 1906 to 1908 he was an assistant at the University of Zurich and works in clinical psychiatry in Jena with his uncle O. Binswanger. Next he worked in Kreuzlingen where he took work in a sanatorium directed by his uncle, R. Binswanger. From 1910 he performed the function of director of that sanatorium.
Besides his scientific work and directing the sanatorium, Binswanger was active in many scientific organizations. He was a member, and from 1926 to 1929 the president, of the Swiss Psychiatric Society, and other organizations. He was also active in similar organizations in Vienna and Madrid.
Binswanger’s most important works concerning psychology and phenomenological psychopathology: Einführung in die Probleme der allgemeinen Psychologie (B 1922, repr. A 1964); Über Phänomenologie—an article describing the influence of new conceptions in psychology upon psychiatric practice (Zeitschrift für die gesammte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 1923); Über Ideenflucht (Z 1933); Grundformen und Erkenntnis menschlichen Dasein (Z 1942, 19532)—a work that discusses that changes that occurred in psychology in the first half of the twentieth century; Über die daseinsanalytische Forschungsrichtung in der Psychiatrie (Schweitzer Archiv für Psychiatrie und Neurologie, 1946); Ausgewählte Vortäge und Aufsätze (I–II, Bn 1947); Daseinsanalytik und Psychiatrie (1951); Der Mensch in der Psychiatrie (Pfullingen 1957).
Binswanger was one of the founders of phenomenological psychology. W. Dilthey started this current with a critique of the psychology of the time, which saw its chief goal in research as the search for the simple components that create the human psyche. Dilthey stated that totality is the fundamental feature of human psychic life, and therefore psychology should grasp the totality of man’s psychic life. He introduced a distinction between explanation “on the basis of elements” and “on the basis of broad observation”. K. Jaspers used this distinction in psychology. He developed a method that permitted a precise description of what the patient was experiencing (that was going on in his mind).
Binswanger modified Jasper’s thought. Initially he refered to the views of E. Husserl in his Logische Untersuchungen (Hl 1900–1901). He had used there a distinction between “objective perception” (which occurs in scientific investigations) and “categorical perception” (with which we deal in daily life). Binswanger, in contrast to Jaspers, stated that it is categorical perception directed “outward”, not introspection directed “inward” that should be the foundation of phenomenologial investigations. This led to an apparently paradoxical conclusion: “we know ourselves most fully when we observe the world”. In assuming such a research perspective, Binswanger created a current of phenomenology distinct from Dilthey’s and Jasper’s. This phenomenology was like “an illumination of pre-reflective existence”.
Although Binswanger recognized Freud’s contributions, he criticized the belief that deep layers of personality exist which determine man’s behavior, a belief that lay at the foundations of psychoanalysis. He thought that only one layer exists for the phenomenologist and it should not be called a layer—it is life as such. For this reason in his later research Binswanger concentrated on the development of a total ”reasoning” way of doing research, a way that he thought was necessary for the humanization of psychology. For the realization of this end he looked to the views in M. Heidegger’s work Sein und Zeit (Hl 1927) introducing the category of Dasein to Heideggerian psychology.
Heidegger’s philosophical views became the foundation for a method of Dasein-analysis introduced by Binswanger. It found application in psychology and psychiatry. This method in the interpretation of psychic phenomena appealed to the “open structure” of human “being in the world”. It was based on the assumption that man is inclined to communicate with other individuals and the world. In contrast to the prevailing methods for explaining psychic or psychological phenomena, the purpose of Daseinanalyse was to understand man, to explain the meaning of his behaviors, while investigating the patient’s image of the world. The method had diagnostic and therapeutic appplications. It regards deviation from the model structure which is “being in the world” as a psychic illness. Illness is thus a result of a disturbed image of the patient’s own person, his failure to adapt to the world.
Ultimately therefore only the first of three periods of the development of phenomenological psychology was not inspired by Binswanger. The other two owe their beginnings to him.
J. H. van den Berg, The Phenomenological Approach to Psychiatry, Springfield 1955; Existence. A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology, NY 1958; Z. Uchnast, EK II 567–568; M. Herzog, Weltentwürte: Ludwig B. phänomenologische Psychologie, B 1994; Ludwig B. und die Chronik der Klinik “Belleuve” in Kreuzlingen, B 1995.
Robert T. Ptaszek