Phenomenology of Listening (no. 2): Existential Psycho(patho)logy – University of Copenhagen

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Phenomenology of Listening (no. 2): Existential Psycho(patho)logy

Open seminar in cooperation between University of Copenhagen and the Centre for Pastoral Education and Research, Church of Denmark

It is no coincidence that we often use acoustic metaphors in order to describe the relation between interiority and exteriority. The sense of hearing can be seen as the door to the soul (Johann Gottfried Herder), but it is also essential for a human being’s openness to the external world. Moreover, there is an obvious connection between Vernunft and Vernehmen: according to Helmuth Plessner, the human spirit has its soil and substratum in sensory perception, and thinking is particularly related to listening. While Derrida’s criticism of logo- and phonocentrism assumes an underlying ‘metaphysics of presence’ where ‘thinking to oneself’ means ‘hearing oneself speak,’ we will explore listening as the bond between impression and expression, between call and response, and as one’s link par excellence to the Other. We will concentrate on what eludes the apparent identity between reason, language, and reality.

In a series of lectures and research seminars at CJMC and an ensuing publication, we will develop a multi-disciplinary approach to the phenomenology of listening with an emphasis on the foreignness of the word, voice, or speech experienced by a person who becomes moved and de-centered by more or less harmonious or conflictual events of resonance happening in-between subjectivity and alterity.

Research seminar no. 2 focuses on psycho(patho)logical aspects of listening as an exemplary experience of being reached ‘from outside’ and yet being touched in one’s innermost, for instance via apparently 'alien voices.' The latter can occur in connection to trauma and dissociation, Alzheimer's disease, and schizophrenic delusions.  

In order to accomplish a distinct differential diagnosis, the symptom constellation needs to be investigated not only in regard to the frequency, number, and ‘message’ of the experienced ‘voices,’ but also in regard to the role of memory, imagination, and ‘sonorized’ thought. How can one distinguish between memories of actually perceived voices and hallucinations? To what extent does thought, as part of interpersonal dialogues, display sonic qualities? And how can sound be included in the therapy of the aforementioned disorders, so that listening can become healing?




Trevor Eyles (Social Psychiatry, Aarhus Commune): “Working with malevolent voices: why should we listen - how should we listen?”


Coffee break


Jenny Gräf Sheppard (Laboratory for Sound, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen): “Sound and Reciprocity”


Coffee break


Bent Rosenbaum (Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen & Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen): “Absence and presence in the process of listening”

Organization & funding:

Center for the Study of Jewish Thought in Modern Culture (CJMC) & Centre for Pastoral Education and Research, Church of Denmark 

Everyone is welcome!