Dr John Cutting

Dr John Cutting MD FRCP FRCPsych MPhil is a consultant psychiatrist associated with the Institute of Psychiatry and the Maudsley and Royal Bethlem Hospitals since the 1970s. A pioneer in philosophical psychopathology John gives a summary of 10 of his studies.

1. Study of anosognosia (Cutting 1978). Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 41 548-555.

I studied one hundred stroke patients with a unilateral weakness and found that a proportion of them denied that they were paralysed. This astounding fact led me to appreciate that brain disease alone could cause delusions.

2. Judgement of emotional expression in schizophrenics (Cutting 1981). British Journal of Psychiatry, 139, 1-6.

I was actually interested in testing a psychological theory of Rosch who believed that knowledge is based on core exemplars of anything and I introduced face perception examples as a control. To my amazement the schizophrenics did well on the intellectual knowledge tasks that I set them but did atrociously – no better than chance – on a simple test of deciding which man was more friendly from a series of paired photographs. This convinced me that schizophrenics had a severe disorder of the perception of emotion in faces.

3. Abstract thought and perception in schizophrenia (Reich and Cutting 1982). Psychological Medicine, 12, 91-96.

Along with a psychologist colleague I discovered that schizophrenics performed very poorly on a simple picture depicting a global scene – family going on holiday – and would describe the detail but not the overall theme. This convinced me that there was something wrong with the schizophrenics’ grasp of Gestalt.

4. The Psychology of Schizophrenia (Cutting 1985). Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.

This was my first book, in which I reviewed the entire literature on schizophrenia, and concluded that it was a neuropsychiatric condition characterised by a failure of the right hemisphere to do what it normally does.

5. The Clinical Roots of the Schizophrenia Concept (Cutting and Shepherd 1987). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

I became fascinated by the German and French psychiatric thinkers who saw schizophrenia as a breakdown in the normal framework of who a person is and what their world is about, rather than as a set of psychological or neuropsychological deficits which I had hitherto assumed it to be. I arranged the translation, and did some myself, of key Continental articles on psychopathology for this book.

6. The Right Cerebral Hemisphere and Psychiatric Disorders (Cutting 1990). Oxford University Press, Oxford.

This was my second book, in which I extended the theme of The Psychology of Schizophrenia – the neuropsychiatric status of schizophrenia – into depressive illness and autism, arguing that depressive illness was the complete antithesis of schizophrenia at a neuropsychological level.

7. The Principles of Psychopathology (Cutting 1997), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

In this book I tried to lay out the pertinent facts of the entire gamut of psychiatric disorders. It is probably misnamed as it is more concerned with the psychopathological data that should inform any theory than with any theory itself.

8. Psychopathology and Modern Philosophy (Cutting 1999). Forest Publishing Co., Scaynes Hill, and The Living, the Dead and the Never-alive (Cutting 2002). Forest Publishing Co., Scaynes Hill.

These were privately published books, circulated to friends and colleagues, in which I tried to show the relevance of my new interest in philosophy to psychopathology. I do not regret the ventures, but I would not encourage anyone to go down the road of private publications in our subject.

9. The Constitution of the Human Being (Cutting 2008). Marquette University Press, Milwaukee.

This book is a translation of most parts of the volumes of Max Scheler’s Collected Works on metaphysics and anthropology. By this time I was convinced that only a philosophical account of psychopathology could do justice to the subject, and I found the works of the early 20th Century philosopher Max Scheler quite astounding in its potential relevance to our subject. Not only had no-one in the psychiatric and psychological field heard of him, but nor had anyone in Anglo-American philosophical circles either. Moreover, his most profound work in metaphysics and anthropology had never been translated. I took up the challenge.

10. A Critique of Psychopathology (Cutting 2012). Parados Verlag, Berlin.

My last book is a further edition of Principles of Psychopathology but with a pronounced slant, attempting a Schelerian take on psychopathology in general, and schizophrenia and depressive illness in particular.


Read John's review of The Maudsley Reader in Phenomenological Psychiatry