Dialogues in Philosophy
Mental and Neuro Sciences

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences

The official journal of Crossing Dialogues
Volume 14, Issue 2 (December 2021)

Hallucinatory mimicry and the diagnosis of auditory verbal hallucination
M. Quercy
This lecture at the 1920 General Assembly of the French Medical-Psychological Association (Quercy, 1921) is relevant nowadays at two levels: historical and psychopathological. Its importance was recognized by Henri Ey (1932, p.13), who wrote: “It is the great merit of M. Quercy that of having restituted to the hallucination its sense, of having vivified this hallucination, which had received fatal blows from Baillarger”. 
Historically, it is an interesting picture of the situation of the French psychiatric debate at the beginning of the XX Century. For example, the cases described by Quercy would receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia nowadays. However, this paper shows that at that time Kraepelin’s dementia praecox was not yet covering the entire field of the paranoid psychoses, the classic delusional syndromes of the French tradition being still in fashion. Accordingly, Quercy states that these are not cases of dementia praecox. This is another example of the now recognized evidence that the psychiatric categories are strongly influenced by the spirit of the time, particularly the theories about mental illness prevailing in a given period of the psychiatric history. 
At the psychopathological level, the main aim of Quercy’s paper is to rebut the classic Esquirol’s definition of hallucinations as perceptions without object. Today the idea that hallucinations are perceptual disorders has been widely replaced by more global accounts. For example, in discussing the formal features of schizophrenic hallucinations, Naim and Aragona (2021, p.10) write that “hallucinations are part of a wider alteration of the subject’s experience, so they have to be studied not only in their intrinsic phenomenal features, but also in a figure-background relation with the entire phenomenal picture”. Quercy’s contribution shows that this was already clear in 1920. His cases are not mere
alterations of perceptions, they are part of a global transformation of the way the world and the body are experienced.
The main difference with the present view is that nowadays we tend to consider “obvious” that hallucinations are global transformations of experience instead of selective alterations of the perceptual function, while in Quercy’s paper the evidence that the persons were not really listening voices is used to claim that these are not hallucinations. Again, this is mainly a problem of conceptual differentiation, i.e. of the way the psychopathologists prefer to define the term hallucination, and consequently of the boundaries they trace. In Quercy’s cases, phenomena like verbal impulses, imposed experiences, thought sonorization, etc., are well described years before they were formally described by Kurt Schneider and following authors. In some cases a phenomenal differentiation from hallucinations is easy, in others the impression is that of a continuum of phenomena, hallucinations and other psychotic phenomena being intertwined in a fluctuating psychotic experience.
Auditory Verbal Hallucinations (AVH), hallucinations, verbal impulses, lack of agency in schizophrenia, delusion of influence, history of psychiatry
Dial Phil Ment Neuro Sci 2021; 14(2): 75-79