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CHH Annual Lecture: Feelings As Things
Thu 15 June 2017, 18:00 – 20:00 BST
Feelings as Things: Hermann Schmitz’s Phenomenology and the ‘Realness’ of Medical Humanities
Mathias Wirth, Charité – Department of Medicine, Humboldt University Berlin.
Medical Humanities and Medical Ethics desire to pay attention to the whole person who is the patient. Despite recognition that much sickness has a psychosomatic dimension there remains a widespread belief that emotions and other mental phenomena are profoundly private and in formal terms have little influence on how patients are treated.
According to Hermann Schmitz’s highly innovative project of “New Phenomenology” feelings gain authority because they are not just private but territorial atmospheres that take up space and can be understood as half-things (Halbdinge). A glance, the voice and the feeling of pressure (Schmitz often refers to a bad mood as for example a pressure) are as real as other everyday things though different in their duration. Half-things may be real only for a moment such as burning with shame as Schmitz puts it. But their passing presence impacts on reality as the awareness of the ego in shame.
In Schmitz’s thinking different atmospheres are classed as things. He teaches how real the immaterial occurrences of corporeality are, such as experiences of pain, angst, shame and lust, and that the dualist notion of body separated from mind is a prejudice that lacks the dimension of corporeality. It is not only Medical Ethics but especially Medical Humanities that can benefit from Schmitz’s understanding and phenomenological attention to the immaterial. His philosophy has gained interest from scholars interested in narrative approaches to medicine, whose dealings with half-things and atmospheres this talk will closely scrutinize.