Idios kosmos

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Idios kosmos (from Ancient Greek: ίδιος κόσμος) is people's "own world" or "private world" as distinguished from the "common world" (koinos kosmos).[1][2] The origin of the term is attributed to fragment B89 (Diels–Kranz numbering) of the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus:[1][2] "The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own."[3] The term has various interpretations: idios kosmos is associated with dreaming, imagination, and delusion; koinos kosmos with wakefulness, reason, and consensus reality.[1][2][4]

From the 1950s, the term was adopted by phenomenological/existential psychologists, such as Ludwig Binswanger and Rollo May, to refer to the experience of people with delusions or other problems who have trouble seeing beyond a limited private world of their own minds or who confuse this private world with shared reality.[4][5][6][7]

It was an important part of novelist Philip K. Dick's views on schizophrenia, as expressed in his 1964 essay "Schizophrenia & 'The Book of Changes'", where he drew on his familiarity with the existential psychologists, Heraclitus, and the I Ching.[8][9][10] The koinos kosmos is mentioned in the Dick novel Lies Inc. where the protagonist mentions that he was "able to maintain contact with the stable objective koinos kosmos so that I never forgot that what I was seeing emanated from my own psyche".[11]


  1. ^ a b c Rommen, Heinrich Albert (1945). The state in Catholic thought: a treatise in political philosophy. St. Louis, Mo.: B. Herder Book Co. p. 11. OCLC 1167720. Heraclitus, the first Greek who used the word and coined the meaning of philosophia, distinguished the narrow tribal world around man as the idios kosmos, the private and privative order, and contrasted it with the koinos kosmos, the universal order, where man, fully awakened, grows to participate in the universal logos or reason above all narrowness, privacy, and limitations.
  2. ^ a b c Voegelin, Eric (1978) [1974]. "Reason: the classic experience". Anamnesis: on the theory of history and politics. The collected works of Eric Voegelin. Vol. 6. Translated by Gerhart Niemeyer. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. pp. 89–115 (98). ISBN 0268005834. OCLC 3540466. Heraclitus had distinguished between the men who live in the one and common world (koinos kosmos) of the logos which is the common bond of humanity (homologia) and the men who live in the several private worlds (idios kosmos) of their passion and imagination, between the men who lead a waking life and the sleepwalkers who take their dreams for reality (B 89) ...
  3. ^ Burnet, John (1920). "Herakleitos of Ephesos" . Early Greek philosophy  (3rd ed.). London: A & C Black. p. 140. OCLC 3610194. (95) The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own. See also: Patrick, G. T. W. (1889) [1888]. The fragments of the work of Heraclitus of Ephesus on nature. Translated by George Thomas White Patrick, from the Greek text of Ingram Bywater. Baltimore: N. Murray. p. 107, 130. XCV.—Plutarch, de Superst. 3, p. 166. Heraclitus says: To those who are awake, there is one world in common, but of those who are asleep, each is withdrawn to a private world of his own. ... XCV. Plutarchus de Superst. 3, p. 166: ὁ Ἡράκλειτός φησι, τοῖς ἐγρηγορόσιν ἕνα καὶ κοινὸν κόσμον εἶναι, τῶν δὲ κοιμωμένων ἕκαστον εἰς ἴδιον ἀποστρέφεσθαι.
  4. ^ a b Blankenburg, Wolfgang (January 1980). "Anthropological and ontoanalytical aspects of delusion". Journal of Phenomenological Psychology. 11 (1): 97–110 (102). doi:10.1163/156916280X00138. On one hand truth always refers to the 'koinos kosmos' (it is no accident that science lives off the mutual understanding of the researchers) and so the world of delusion appears as 'idios kosmos' in contrast to truth which is common to us. Binswanger has repeatedly marked this point.
  5. ^ May, Rollo (1958). "Contributions of existential psychotherapy". In May, Rollo; Angel, Ernest; Ellenberger, Henri F. (eds.). Existence: a new dimension in psychiatry and psychology. New York: Basic Books. pp. 37–91 (81). doi:10.1037/11321-002. ISBN 9780671203146. OCLC 14599810. Binswanger writes as follows, in his paper on psychotherapy, concerning the significance of the therapist's role of the relationship ... 'the fundamental power that makes any therapy work—the power to liberate a person from the blind isolation, the idios kosmos of Heraclitus, from a mere vegetating in his body, his dreams, his private wishes, his conceit and his presumptions, and to ready him for a life of koinonia, of genuine community.' The term idios kosmos is also used elsewhere in the same book by psychiatrist Viktor Emil von Gebsattel [de] on page 182 and again by Binswanger on page 273.
  6. ^ Hora, Thomas (1962). "Existential psychiatry and group psychotherapy". In Ruitenbeek, Hendrik Marinus (ed.). Psychoanalysis and existential philosophy. Dutton paperback. Vol. D94. New York: E. P. Dutton. pp. 130–154 (132). OCLC 261150. The removal of these obstacles to cognition, to authentic interhuman communication and communion, is an essential feature of the existential group psychotherapeutic endeavor. Man is to be liberated from the prison of his 'idios cosmos' (private world of ideas) and enabled to live in the 'coinos cosmos' (shared word of communing) (Heraclitus). Only here can his essential humanness come to fruition.
  7. ^ López-Ibor Jr., Juan J.; López-Ibor Alcocer, María Inés (2010). "Religious experience and psychopathology". In Verhagen, Peter J.; Van Praag, Herman M.; López-Ibor, Juan José; Cox, John; Moussaoui, Driss (eds.). Religion and psychiatry: beyond boundaries. World Psychiatric Association evidence in psychiatry series. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 211–233 (215). CiteSeerX doi:10.1002/9780470682203.ch12. ISBN 9780470694718. OCLC 406945520. Delusions are the replacement of common sense by a very private sense ... Phenomenological and existentialist influenced psychiatry has described how delusional ideas consist of the desire to control one's own world, idios kosmos, or the common world, koinos kosmos [14]. Each one of us is in two worlds at the same time, the one of common reality and one's own in which fantasy, dreams or simple longings and hopes reign. The sane person is able to distinguish one from another, and even to pass from one to another even when doubts about that radical ambiguity of our consciousness assault him or her. In delusions everything is different.
  8. ^ Gillespie, Bruce (1975). Philip K. Dick, electric shepherd. Best of SF commentary. Vol. 1. Melbourne: Norstrilia Press. pp. 31–33. ISBN 0909106002. OCLC 3630441.
  9. ^ Wolk, Anthony (1995). "The Swiss connection: psychological systems in the novels of Philip K. Dick". In Umland, Samuel J. (ed.). Philip K. Dick: contemporary critical interpretations. Contributions to the study of science fiction and fantasy. Vol. 63. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 101–126. ISBN 0313292957. OCLC 30814973.
  10. ^ Kucukalic, Lejla (2009). "Dick's view of koinos–idios cosmos". Philip K. Dick: canonical writer of the digital age. Studies in major literary authors. New York: Routledge. pp. 54–57. doi:10.4324/9780203886847-8. ISBN 9780415962421. OCLC 229467503.
  11. ^ Dick, Philip K. (2004). Lies, Inc. New York: Vintage Books. p. 91. ISBN 1400030080. OCLC 53306621.