Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Pathologies Report Summary

Project ID: 659205
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Pathologies (Pathologies of temporality. Abnormal experiences of time in mental disorders)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2017-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The aim of the project was to analyze the experiences of time in selected mental disorders from a phenomenological perspective by combining clinical resources with philosophical interpretative categories. For example, temporal disorientation might be a sign of a mental disorder, like dementia, in which a person gets lost regarding a given hour, a day, or even a year. Yet, disorientation in time is just one of the many abnormal temporal experiences that humans can suffer from. Others include acceleration of the temporal flow (as in mania), temporal retardation (as in melancholia), desynchronization with the environment (as in addictions), repetitive behaviors (as in compulsions) or temporal fragmentation (as in schizophrenia). In all of them, the question of the qualitative relationship between the three dimensions of time – past, present and future – and the temporal structure of consciousness itself as underpinning any human experience comes to the fore. It is also here that we encounter the limits of a physicalist conception of homogenous time (as represented by the clock, in which every minute lasts exactly as long as any other) and need to think more in terms of time being lived through our engagement with the world and other people. For example, one can experience one’s personal future as being pre-determined and controlled by alien forces, or one can live one’s past in the mode of constant and painful regret. One can even suffer from a total blockage of the temporal flow, despite the fact that the clock is still ticking and, apparently, objective time passes without any interruption. The research was focused on those different abnormal temporal experiences as seen via a set of philosophical categories having to do with how time is subjectively lived even before it is consciously experienced.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The researcher, dr. Marcin Moskalewicz, worked with both clinical databases and philosophical resources, in particular, the tradition of phenomenological psychopathology comprising three generations of psychiatrists. The issue of orientation in clock time reinterpreted from Erwin Straus’ work as well as the phenomenological distinction between pre-reflective and reflective temporal orientation proved to be fruitful in the goal of finding a common ground between the philosophical and medical discourses. As far as lived time is concerned, the values-based model was elaborated in the light of new data to include also the quantitative perception of time and the issue of reflective temporal orientation. As a result, the model combined tripartite and qualitative as well as homogenic temporality. A strategy of ideal-typical approach was implemented to address the phenomenological essences of dementia, depression, mania, and schizophrenia in reference to temporal experience. The researcher has argued that in both depression and dementia, temporal experience decomposes and leads to different forms of estrangement from the world. In dementia, the order of clock time “dissolves” and loses the character of reality. In the full-fledged depressive psychosis, the experienced future ceases to exist, and one may begin to feel as if time has disappeared altogether. However, demented patients who suffer from age or clock time disorientation do not have to be deeply affected as far as their ability to think about and imagine past and future is concerned – except that this ability becomes less concrete as events projected and remembered lose their exact temporal location. It follows that very limited comprehension of clock time may coexist with lived experience of time. On the other hand, depressive patients who undergo characteristic psychotic deformation of their lived time, and, in an extreme situation, a sense of timelessness, are usually still able to successfully locate themselves in clock time. Regarding the manic experience, the research has showed that distortions of lived time in mania exceed mere acceleration and are fundamental for manic affectivity. People with mania rebel against the facticity of reality and suffer from an existential leap towards the future, in which the self abandons normal temporal boundaries. As far as schizophrenia is concerned, it was proposed, following a long psychopathological debate and earlier arguments by Louis Sass, Josef Parnas, and Aaron Mishara, among others, that the so-called minimal self awareness is grounded in temporality. Therefore, what happens in schizophrenia is not so much a loss of pre-reflective self-awareness as its de-temporalization. Taking advantage of a hermeneutic phenomenological reasoning, the research also addressed the question of the entanglement and asymmetry between lived past and future. It was argued that a healthy balance between these two dimensions of lived time requires both a continuity of lived experience and a possibility to accommodate the unpredictable.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The project enabled the researcher to develop his previous work on phenomenology and temporality and to lay the grounds for writing an exhaustive monograph on abnormal temporal experience. The dissemination of research results took place during the duration of the project and directly afterwards. The researcher gave a series of invited talks on the project theme at the University of Oxford, Marie Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin, Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Université Jean Jaurè in Toulouse, Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, and Jagiellonian University in Warsaw. The research findings were also presented at academic conferences and workshops in Sao Paolo, Warsaw, Poznan, Madrid, Lancaster, and Oxford. Dr. Moskalewicz organized two seminars on phenomenological psychopathology at the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford as well as a public debate “How do mentally ill people experience time?” and a one-day workshop on psychopathology of time and body. The following publications resulting from the project are forthcoming:

M. Moskalewicz, “Conscience, Mental Illness, and Existential Becoming”, in: The Oxford Handbook of Phenomenological Psychopathology, edited by G. Stanghellini, M. Broome, A. V. Fernandez, P. Fusar-Poli, A. Raballo, and R. Rosfort. Oxford University Press 2018
M. Moskalewicz, “A non-reductive approach to psychopathology of temporal experience – a few methodological remarks”, in: “Philosophy of Medicine: Tradition and the Present”, ed. M. Moskalewicz, J. Zamojski, Poznan University of Medical Sciences 2017 (in Polish), p. 145-170.
M. Moskalewicz, “Temporal Delusion. Dualistic Accounts of Time and Double Orientation to Reality in Depressive Psychosis”, in: Journal of Consciousness Studies (in revisions).
M. Moskalewicz, M. Schwartz, Temporal experience in mania, in: Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (in reviews)

The relevance of this research for society is that it enables a better understanding of what it is like to experience the world being mentally ill. In addition, focusing on temporal experience instead of particular symptoms of illness helps to look at some deeper structures of consciousness that possibly operate beyond particular mental disorders and could be shared in normal and pathological experiences. This knowledge can potentially lead to a better treatment, including the therapeutic potential of temporality itself, which is for example applied by resynchronizing patients with their environment.
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