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date: 16 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Treating the other as an autonomous person is widely considered a guiding ethical principle. The notions of autonomy and personhood are, however, far from evident in a time of striding naturalism. Hermeneutical phenomenology provides an explanation of these notions, and argues that personhood is not merely an ethical principle, but an integral part of vulnerability to mental illness. In other words, ethics and questions of norms and values are not merely a bioethical add-on to psychiatry, but an integral part of what it means to do psychiatry. Being a person is to be faced with the constant task of becoming who I am through the otherness that constitutes my life as a person. Otherness challenges my life from without (e.g., the way other people understand and treat me) and from within (e.g., my body, habits, and dispositions). Although a major aspect of personal identity is constituted by otherness, a person is able, nevertheless, to change her habits, think about her dispositions, and reconsider her actions. This ability to relate ourselves to what and who we are is constitutive of personhood and of the fragility that makes each of us the person that we are.

Keywords: hermeneutical phenomenology, ethics, phenomenology, naturalism, personhood, values, norms, autonomy, fragility

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