MBBS Curriculum 2020

Manic Temporality and Decision-Making: A Phenomenological Approach

2 March 2017 - 17:00-18:30

LectureWayne Martin, Department of Philosophy, University of Essex.

Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Hodgkin Building, Guy’s Campus


The symptom scales and diagnostic criteria for mania are peppered with temporally inflected language: increased rate of speech, racing thoughts, flight of ideas, hyperactivity. But what is the underlying phenomenological structure of temporal experience in manic episodes? We identify a set of hypotheses about manic temporality formulated by two pioneers in 20th century clinical phenomenology: Eugène Minkowski (1885-1972) and Ludwig Binswanger (1881-1966). We then test, critique, and refine these hypothesis using methods of “second-person phenomenology” in an interview-based study of persons with a history of bipolar disorder and a current diagnosis of mania. We show that Minkowski and Binswanger were wrong to claim that persons experiencing acute mania are somehow trapped in the present moment. But we provide evidence that supports their hypothesis that disturbance in the formal structure of temporal experience is a core feature of mania. Developing a suggestion from Binswanger, we propose an interpretation of manic temporality as involving a distinctive form of protention. We identify consequences of this temporal disturbance for the assessment of decision-making capacity under conditions of mania.

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