Multiple personality disorder: A phenomenological/postmodern account

A striking feature of post-modernism is its distrust of the subject. If the modern period, beginning with Descartes, sought in the subject a source of certainty, an Archimedian point from which all else could be derived, post- modernism has taken the opposite tack. Rather than taking the self as a foundation, it has seen it as founded, as dependent on the accidents which situate consciousness in the world. The same holds for the unity of the subject. Modernity, in its search for a single foundation, held the subject to be an indissoluble unity. Post-modernism’s position, by contrast, is announced by Nietzsche: “The assumption of one single subject is perhaps unnecessary; perhaps it is just as permissible to assume a multiplicity of subjects, whose interaction and struggle is the basis of our thought and our consciousness in general? ...My hypotheses: The subject as multiplicity.” Given this, there is a natural correspondence between the success of post- modernism and the current interest in multiple personality disorder. In the latter, we actually have the experience of a “multiplicity of subjects” in their interaction and struggle. The subject stands there before us “as multiplicity.” It gives us a concrete case, one which raises some of the pressing questions associated with the post-modern denial of the subject. Confronting it, we ask: how real are the personalities composing the multiplicity of this disordered self? What, in fact, does this multiplicity tell us about the self? about its genesis and status? What does it reveal about “our thought and consciousness in general”? I plan, in the short compass of this paper, to sketch some answers to these questions. §1. A brief description of MPD. The American Psychiatric Association gives two criteria for (MPD) multiple personality disorder. First, and most obviously, there is “the existence within the person of two or more distinct personalities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern
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