Apophenic - Meanings and Forms

Meanings and Forms

In 1958, Klaus Conrad published a monograph entitled Die beginnende Schizophrenie. Versuch einer Gestaltanalyse des Wahns, in which he described in groundbreaking detail the prodromal mood and earliest stages of schizophrenia. He coined the word "Apophänie" to characterize the onset of delusional thinking in psychosis. This neologism is translated as "apophany," from the Greek apo + phaenein, to reflect the fact that the schizophrenic initially experiences delusion as revelation. In contrast to epiphany, however, apophany does not provide insight into the true nature of reality or its interconnectedness, but is a "process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field" which are entirely self-referential, solipsistic and paranoid: "being observed, spoken about, the object of eavesdropping, followed by strangers". In short, "apophenia" is a misnomer that has taken on a bastardized meaning never intended by Conrad when he coined the neologism "apophany."

In 2008, Michael Shermer coined the word 'patternicity', defining it as "the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise". In The Believing Brain (2011), Shermer defines patternicity as "the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise". The Believing Brain thesis also says that we have "the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency", which Shermer calls 'agenticity'.

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