Dialogues in Philosophy
Mental and Neuro Sciences

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences

The official journal of Crossing Dialogues
Volume 16, Issue 1 (June 2023)


The subjective method for the study of psychotic phenomena:
epistemological reflections

Boris Sidis

In the first part of a book dedicated to dissociation (including hysterical dissociation) as initial stage of a psychotic process, the Ukrainian-American psychologist and psychiatrist Boris Sidis starts with epistemological reflections about the methods of inquiry.
His main claim is that, psychic phenomena being not of an objective, but of a subjective nature, they must be studied by using a subjective method of investigation. Accordingly, Sidis conceives introspection (both the clinician’s own introspection and the patients’ account of their own introspection) as the microscope, the scalpel and microtome of the psychologist and psychopathologist. In his view, it is the most important instrument of psychological research.
He admits that the possibility of lying can be a problem for the use of the patient’s subjective accounts, nevertheless he stresses that it is the same method used with great success by neurologists in the study of aphasias. It is not the subjective nature of the psychic fact to be studied, but the trustfulness of the reports that is in question. To reduce possible biases,
Sidis suggests some practical rules: the investigator must always be aware that the psychic facts occurring in others can be grasped only in an indirect way and that the nature of evidence in psychological research is essentially of a circumstantial character. He/she must be well acquainted with the patient, and the statements of the patient should be carefully examined and tested.


epistemology of psychiatry, introspection, subjectivity, psychosis, history of psychiatry

Dial Phil Ment Neuro Sci 2023; 16(1): 31-35