Louis Sass: "Delusions and Double Book-keeping: An Ontological Investigation"

Lecture by Louis Sass, Graduate School of Applied and Clinical Psychology, Rutgers University, USA.

My paper offers a phenomenological discussion of the "ontological" dimension of delusions in schizophrenia. I will be concerned not with certain alterations in the quality of objects, space, bodily sensations, or the stream of consciousness, but with more general challenges to (what Husserl called) the "natural attitude"--namely, to the sense of encountering an objective or shared world. The delusional world has been aptly described as "peculiarly insubstantial, evanescent, and hovering" (Alfred Storch) and as having the "conceptual halo of the fantastic" (Henri Ey). There does not, however, seem to be any single delusional alternative to the lived-world of the natural attitude, but rather a gamut of ways or modes in which things or the world may lack or otherwise deviate from normal reality. Each mode is itself both strange and ambiguous, and this strangeness is compounded by instability--by the way these experiential modes may slip and slide one into the other. I shall offer a phenomenological account of these key aspects of delusional experience and will discuss why they are frequently misunderstood.