Ludwig Binswanger (13 April 1881 – 5 February 1966) was a Swiss
psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of existential psychology. His
German-Jewish grandfather (also named Ludwig Binswanger) was
founder of the "Bellevue Sanatorium" in Kreuzlingen, and his uncle
Otto Binswanger was a professor of psychiatry at the University of
He is considered the most distinguished of the phenomenological
psychologists, and the most influential in making the concepts of
existential psychology known in
Europe and the United States.
1 Life and career
2 Thinking and influence
3 Binswanger on existence
3.1 Modes of existence
3.3 Being-in-the world vs. being-beyond-the-world
5.1 German editions of selected works
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Life and career
In 1907 Binswanger received his medical degree from the University of
Zurich. As a young man he worked and studied with some of the greatest
psychiatrists of the era, such as Carl Jung,
Eugen Bleuler and Sigmund
Freud. He visited Freud (who had cited his uncle Otto's work on
Neurasthenia) in 1907 alongside Jung, approvingly noting his host's
"distaste for all formality and etiquette, his personal charm, his
simplicity, casual openness and goodness". The two men became
lifelong friends, Freud finding Binswanger's 1912 illness
"particularly painful", and Binswanger offering Freud a refuge in
Switzerland in 1938.
Binswanger became a member of the early 'Freud Group' Jung led in
Switzerland; but nevertheless wrestled throughout his life over the
place of psychoanalysis in his thinking - his 1921 article on
Psychoanalysis and clinical Psychiatry' being only one landmark of
that lifelong struggle.
Binswanger was further influenced by existential philosophy,
particularly after World War I, through the works of Martin
Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Buber, eventually evolving his
own distinctive brand of existential-phenomenological psychology.
From 1911 to 1956, Binswanger was medical director of the sanatorium
Thinking and influence
Binswanger is considered the first physician to combine psychotherapy
with existential and phenomenological ideas, a concept he expounds in
his 1942 book; Grundformen und Erkenntnis menschlichen Daseins (Basic
Forms and the Realization of Human "Being-in-the-World"). In this work
he explains existential analysis as an empirical science that involves
an anthropological approach to the individual essential character of
Binswanger saw Husserl's concept of lifeworld as a key to
understanding the subjective experiences of his patients, considering
that "in the mental diseases we face modifications of the fundamental
structure and of the structural links of being-in-the-world". For
Binswanger, mental illness involved the remaking of a world -
including alterations in the lived experience of time, space, body
sense and social relationships. Where for example the
psychoanalyst might only see "an overly strong 'pre-oedipal' tie to
the mother", Binswanger would point out that "such overly strong
filial tie is only possible on the premise of a world-design
exclusively based on connectedness, cohesiveness, continuity".
Binswanger's Dream and Existence — which was translated from German
into French by
Michel Foucault who added a substantial
essay-introduction — highlighted in similar fashion the necessity of
"steeping oneself in the manifest content of the dream - which, since
Freud's epoch-making postulate concerning the reconstruction of latent
thoughts, has in modern times receded all to[o] far into the
Eugène Minkowski had earlier introduced Binswanger's
ideas into France, influencing thereby among others the early work of
In his study of existentialism, his most famous subject was Ellen
West, a deeply troubled patient whose case-study was translated into
English for the 1958 volume Existence. Binswanger ascribed
"schizophrenia" to her, and her case is included in his book
"Schizophrenie". But few contemporary psychiatrists would accept this
diagnosis. "Anorexia nervosa" is also misplaced. She felt an extreme
urge for weight loss.
Through his adoption from Buber of the importance of the concept of
dialogue, Binswanger can also be seen as an ancestor to
intersubjective approaches to therapy. Binswanger emphasised the
importance of mutual recognition, as opposed to the counterdependency
of destructive narcissism, as described by
Herbert Rosenfeld for
Binswanger on existence
Ludwig Binswanger contributed much to the idea of existence in the
school of existential psychology. He believed that human existence was
complex in that one has control over how one exists. As he described,
humans have the choice of existing as,"being a hunter, of being
romantic, of being in business, and thus (we are) free to design
(ourselves) toward the most different potentialities of being." He
therefore believed that such an existence "transcends the being,"
making the being accessible to itself in numerous different outcomes
in life based on the existential path one chooses. In addition to
this belief, Binswanger also thought that you can only observe one's
existence and/or unique personality by looking at it holistically,
emphasized in this quote from Binswanger:
"It is a question of attempting to understand and to explain the human
being in the totality of his/her existence. But that is possible only
from the perspective of our total existence: in other words, only when
we reflect on and articulate our total existence, the "essence" and
"form" of being human."
Modes of existence
Binswanger argued that there are certain modes of existence. These
modes of existence, he believed, allowed humans and non-human animals
to be separated based on this concept. These modes include:
the Umwelt (the "around world")
the Mitwelt (the "with world")
the Eigenwelt (the "own world")
The Umwelt can apply to both non-human animals and humans. It is the
relationship between the organism and its environment. However,
according to Binswanger, non-human animal cannot possess the world as
humans do. Non-human animals, "can neither design world nor open up
world nor decide independently in and for a situation. As for humans,
they do possess the world in the way that they can transcend their
being above the level of non-human animals by, "climbing above it (the
world) in care and of swinging beyond it in love."
The Mitwelt refers to the mode of existence involved in inter-species
relations. Specifically, this mode applies mainly to humans in the
sense of human interaction. It also refers to the "shared world" that
we have with other people, i.e., viewing our lives according to our
relationships with other humans.
The Eigenwelt refers to a person's own subjective experience, or the
"self world." In other words, the Eigenwelt is the relationship that
one has with themselves. This mode of existence is the most difficult
to grasp because of its vague definition.
Binswanger believed that to fully understand a person, you must take
into account the specificities of all three modes of existence.
Weltanschauung (world-design) also applies to one's existence. An
individual experiences the world through their own Weltanschauung, or
world-design. A person's world-design is essentially how they view and
open up to the world around them. This concept also is related to the
modes of existence, as Binswanger points out:
"The world-design"..."is by no means confined to the environment to
the world of things, or to the universe in general, but refers equally
to the world of one's fellow men (Mitwelt) and to the self world
Being-in-the world vs. being-beyond-the-world
Two other concepts relate to Binswanger's view on existence, relating
to the relationship between humans and the world or objects around
them. Being-in-the-world is, "the normal and lawful interaction with
the real-world environment that is considered primary to our way of
existing in the world". It explains how we interact with our
environment and the impact of that relationship. When
"being-in-the-world," there are 3 general steps of assessment:
Identify the situation in reference to known objects and their
Assign general rules to that situation according to those objects and
Use logical rules in the situation and draw conclusions as to what
must be done
Being-beyond-the-world is the second of these concepts. This idea
refers to how people can change their circumstances in the world by
using free will. Similar to the concept of being-in-the-world, a
person is transcended and is able to transform their world following
their own motivations. Binswanger relates this idea to love, believing
that, "it (love) takes us beyond the world of one's own self to the
world of we-hood".
R. D. Laing
R. D. Laing criticised Binswanger's phenomenology of space for
insufficiently realizing the extent to which one's sense of space is
structured by others.
Fritz Perls criticized Binswanger's existential therapy for leaning
too heavily upon psychoanalysis.
1907: Über das Verhalten des psychogalvanischen Phänomens beim
Assoziationsexperiment. Diagnostische Assoziationsstudien. (On the
behavior of the psycho-galvanic phenomenon in association experiments.
Diagnostic association studies).
1910: Über Entstehung und Verhütung geistiger Störungen. (Origin
and prevention of mental disorders).
1922: Einführung in die Probleme der allgemeinen Psychologie
(Introduction to the problems of general psychology), Berlin.
1928: Wandlungen in der Auffassung und Deutung des Traumes
(Transformations in the view and interpretation of the dream), Berlin.
1930: Traum und Existenz (Dream and existence).
1932: Zur Geschichte der Heilanstalt Bellevue.
(The history of the Bellevue sanatorium. Kreuzlingen, from 1857 to
1933: Über Ideenflucht (On "flight of ideas"), Zürich.
1936: Freuds Auffassung des Menschen im Lichte der Anthropologie.
Erweiterter Festvortrag gehalten zur Feier des 80. Geburtstags von
Sigmund Freud im Akad. Verein für medizin. Psychologie. (Freud's
conception of man in the light of anthropology. Extended lecture held
to celebrate the 80th Birthday of
Sigmund Freud in the Academic
Association for Medicine).
1942: Grundformen und Erkenntnis menschlichen Daseins (Basic forms and
realization of human existence), Zurich (3rd édition, Munich/Basle,
1946: Über Sprache und Denken (On language and thinking), Basle.
1947: Ausgewählte Aufsätze und Vorträge, Bd. 1: Zur
phänomenologischen Anthropologie (Selected essays and lectures,
Volume 1: To phenomenological anthropology), Bern.
Henrik Ibsen und das Problem der Selbstrealisation in der Kunst
Henrik Ibsen and the problem of self-realization in art), Heidelberg.
1949: Die Bedeutung der Daseinsanalytik Martin Heideggers für das
Selbstverständnis der Psychiatrie (The importance of Martin
Heidegger's analysis of Dasein for the self-understanding of
Martin Heidegger und die Psychiatrie.
Feier des 350jährigen Bestehens des Heinrich-Suso-Gymnasium zu
Martin Heidegger and psychiatry.
Festschrift to celebrate
the 350th anniversary of Heinrich Suso-Gymnasium in Konstanz).
1955: Ausgewählte Vorträge und Aufsätze, Bd. II: Zur Problematik
der psychiatrischen Forschung und zum Problem der Psychiatrie
(Selected lectures and essays, Volume II: On the problem of
psychiatric research and the problem of psychiatry) Bern.
1956: Erinnerungen an
Sigmund Freud (Memories of Sigmund Freud),
1956: Drei Formen missglückten Daseins: Verstiegenheit,
Verschrobenheit, Manieriertheit (Three forms of failed existence),
1957: Schizophrenie (Schizophrenia), Pfullingen.
1957: Der Mensch in der Psychiatrie (Man in psychiatry), Pfullingen.
1960: Melancholie und Manie: Phänomenologische Studien (Melancholy
and mania: Phenomenological studies), Pfullingen.
1961: Geleitwort zu Hans Häfners "Psychopathien". Monographien aus
dem Gesamtgebiet der Neurologie und Psychiatrie. (Foreword to Hans
Häfner's "Psychopathic". Monographs from the entire field of
neurology and psychiatry), Berlin.
1962: Der Musische Mensch. Vorwort zu "Musische Erziehung" (Man in
arts. Preface to "Education in arts"), Amriswil.
1965: Wahn. Beiträge zu seiner phänomenologischen und
daseinsanalytischen Erforschung (Delusion. Contributions to
phenomenological and analytical investigations), Pfullingen.
1992: Traum und Existenz (Dream and existence), Einleitung von Michel
Foucault. Verlag Gachnang & Springer,
Bern / Berlin.
2007: Aby Warburg: La guarigione infinita. Storia clinica di Aby
Warburg. A cura di Davide Stimilli. Vicenza 2005 (auf Deutsch: Die
unendliche Heilung. Aby Warburgs Krankengeschichte, diaphanes,
German editions of selected works
Ausgewählte Werke in 4 Bänden. Roland Asanger, Heidelberg
Band 1: Formen missglückten Daseins, hrsg. v. Max Herzog, 1992,
Band 2: Grundformen und Erkenntnis menschlichen Daseins, hrsg. v. Max
Herzog und Hans-Jürg Braun, 1993, ISBN 3-89334-203-6 bzw.
Band 3: Vorträge und Aufsätze, hrsg. v. Max Herzog, 1994,
ISBN 3-89334-204-4 bzw. ISBN 3-89334-208-7
Band 4: Der Mensch in der Psychiatrie, hrsg. v. Alixe Holzhey-Kunz,
1994, ISBN 3-89334-205-2 bzw. ISBN 3-89334-209-5
Szondi Schicksalsanalyse (fate analysis) and the Szondi test
^ Klaus Hoffmann, "The Burghölzli School: Bleuler, Jung, Spielrein,
Binswanger and others" in Yrjö O. Alanen, Manuel González de
Chávez, Ann-Louise S. Silver, Brian Martindale (ed.),
Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Schizophrenic Psychoses: Past, Present
and Future, Routledge (2009), p. 44
^ Todd May, 'Foucault's Relation to Phenomenology', in Gary Gutting
ed., The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (2007) p. 287
^ Sigmund Freud, Civilization, Society and Religion (PFL 12) p. 36
^ Quoted in Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1988) p. 203
^ Gay, p. 229 and p. 789
^ Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of
Sigmund Freud (1961) p. 331
^ Gay, p. 242-3
^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neorosis (London 1946)
p. 416 and p. 598
^ Herbert Spiegelberg, Phenomenology in Psychology and Psychiatry
(1972) p. 197
^ Spiegelberg, p. 198-202
^ Answers.com Ludwig Binswanger
^ Quoted by May, p. 288
^ May, p. 295
^ Quoted by May, p. 289
^ Quoted in May, p. 289
^ Elisabeth Roudinesco,
Jacques Lacan (2005) p. 45
^ Eugene Taylor, The Mysteries of Personality (2009) p. 81
^ Donna M. Orange, Thinking for Clinicians (nd) p. 3
^ Brian Koehler, 'Ludwig Binswanger: Contributions to an
Intersubjective Approach to Psychosis' Archived 2006-04-20 at the
^ a b c May, Rollo (1958). Existence. Oxford: The Rowman and
Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. pp. 191–213.
^ a b Frie, Roger (1997). Subjectivity and
Intersubjectivity in Modern
Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. Lanhman, Maryland: Rowman and
Littlefield Publishers, Inc. pp. 22–23.
ISBN 9780847684168. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
^ Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An Introduction to the History of
Psychology. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning. pp. 575–576.
^ Lindemann, Gesa; Millay Hyatt (2010). "The Lived Human Body from the
Perspective of the Shared World (Mitwelt)". The Journal of Speculative
Psychology. 24 (3): 275–291. doi:10.1353/jsp.2010.0012.
^ de Avila, Diana Teresa. "Existential Psychology,
the Will to Meaning". Archived from the original on 25 September 2012.
Retrieved 10 December 2014.
^ Zahorik, Pavel; Rick L. Jenison (1998). "Presence as
Being-in-the-World". Presence. 7 (1): 78–89.
^ Popovic, Nash (Autumn 2002). "Existential Anxiety and Existential
Joy". Practical Philosophy: 36.
^ R. D. Laing, Self and Others(1969) p. 135
^ Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim (1972) p. 16-17
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Library resources about
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
Works by or about
Ludwig Binswanger at Internet Archive
Binswanger/Freud Correspondence[permanent dead link]
Existential Psychology by Dr. C. George Boeree
Transference focused psychotherapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Compassion focused therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy
Rational emotive behavior therapy
Combined with Applied behavior analysis
Clinical behavior analysis or CBA
Functional analytic psychotherapy
Acceptance and commitment therapy
Emotionally focused therapy
Common factors theory
Applied behavior analysis
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) (formerly Behavior modification)
Other individual therapy
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Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
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Fritz Perls (1893–1970)
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