The paradoxical self: awareness, solipsism and first-rank symptoms in schizophrenia

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Schizophrenia as a pathology of self-awareness has attracted much attention from philosophical theorists and empirical scientists alike. I view schizophrenia as a basic self-disturbance leading to a lifeworld of solipsism adopted by the sufferer and explain how this adoption takes place, which then manifests in ways such as first-rank psychotic symptoms. I then discuss the relationships between these symptoms, not as isolated mental events, but as end-products of a loss of agency and ownership, and argue that symptoms like thought insertion and other ego-boundary disorders are by nature a multitude of paradoxes created by a fragmented awareness. I argue that such fragmentation does not always require or lead to a delusional elaboration as the definitive feature of its phenomenology, and present reasons for the role of the first-person pronoun as a mere metaphor used to represent the patient’s bizarre experiences where sensory perception and thinking processes converge. Further, I discuss the initial benefits of adopting a solipsistic stance and how despite being a maladaptive strategy, it nevertheless acts as a protective barrier for the integrity of one’s self. Lastly, I offer some suggestions for clinical practice, emphasizing the importance of understanding the patient’s suffering in any therapeutic alliance.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-231
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date8 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2018


  • Delusion, first-rank symptoms, hallucination, phenomenology, psychosis, self-disturbance