Friday, June 07, 2019

Philosophy & Psychoanalysis

Wollheim 1
“In general, in the English-speaking world, there has been a regrettable tendency for philosophers and psychoanalysts to ignore each other. There are important exceptions. But in general there has been an intellectual splitting that has led to impoverishment on both sides. Philosophers, for their part, take seriously such notions as autonomy, authenticity, freedom and happiness in their accounts of human life and its possibilities. But it is difficult to see how these notions can be adequately addressed without taking into considerations Freud’s genetic account of how the psyche comes to be.”—Jonathan Lear

“Freud revolutionized our understanding of certain forms of ‘mental trouble’ and their treatment. The kind of work that led to his discoveries obviously does not belong to philosophy. So it does not fall within the province of philosophy to tell Freud, or any other psychoanalyst, how to proceed. Yet in this matter of appreciating Freud’s discoveries and the concepts he developed philosophy does have a positive role to play, provided it remains well informed. Since, however, philosophy can alter the practitioner’s understanding of what he is doing and the character of what is working on, it can actually influence, albeit indirectly, the development of the practice in question. Naturally, to do so is not part of the philosopher’s brief, and it would be presumptuous of him to aim at it. Nevertheless, this may be an effect of his reflections when he is sufficiently in touch with that practice to be taken seriously by those who engage in it.”—Ilham Dilman

“Virtually all those who are not ignorant of Freud or totally sceptical of his findings believe that he altered our conception of the mind. He effected a change in what we think we are like, and it was a big change. Astonishingly enough, it is philosophers who have been of all people the slowest to recognize this fact.* They have been slowest to recognize that this has anything to do with them.”—Richard Wollheim 

* Among those whom Lear refers to above as “important exceptions” to the generalization he shares with Wollheim, I note the following philosophers, in addition to Lear, Dilman and Wollheim (in no particular order, and confined to those whose work I am familiar with, thus not an exhaustive list): Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, John Wisdom, Jerome Neu, Marcia Cavell, Donald Levy, David Sachs, Herbert Fingarette, J. David Velleman, James Hopkins, Jennifer Church, John Deigh, Linda A.W. Brakel, Paul Ricoeur, Jon Mills, Michael Stocker, and Ernest Wallwork. In fairness, of course, we might mention Adolf Grünbaum who, while taking psychoanalytic theory seriously, was quite critical of psychoanalysis within the strictures of his rather positivist philosophy of science. 

Suggested Reading (this is a fairly large sample of the relevant philosophical literature):
  • Abramson, Jeffrey B. Liberation and Its Limits: The Moral and Political Thought of Freud. New York: Free Press, 1984.
  • Boag, Simon, Linda A. W. Brakel, and Vesa Talvitie, eds. Philosophy, Science, and Psychoanalysis: A Critical Meeting. London: Karnac Books, 2015.
  • Brakel, Linda A.W. Unconscious Knowing and Other Essays in Psycho-Philosophical Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Brakel, Linda A.W. Philosophy, Psychoanalysis and the A-Rational Mind. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Burston, Daniel and Roger Frie, eds. Psychotherapy as a Human Science. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 2006.
  • Cavell, Marcia. The Psychoanalytic Mind: From Freud to Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.
  • Cavell, Marcia. Becoming a Subject: Reflections in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Cottingham, John. Philosophy and the Good Life: Reason and the Passions in Greek, Cartesian and Psychoanalytic Ethics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Deigh, John. The Sources of Moral Agency: Essays in Moral Psychology and Freudian Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Dilman, Ilham. Freud and Human Nature. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1983.
  • Dilman, Ilham. Freud and the Mind. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1984.
  • Dilman, Ilham. Freud: Insight and Change. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1988.
  • Dilman, Ilham. Raskolnikov’s Rebirth: Psychology and the Understanding of Good and Evil. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2000.
  • Edelson, Marshall. Hypothesis and Evidence in Psychoanalysis. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
  • Erwin, Edward. A Final Accounting: Philosophical and Empirical Issues in Freudian Psychology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996.
  • Fingarette, Herbert. The Self in Transformation: Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, and the Life of the Spirit. New York: HarperCollins, 1977.
  • Forrester, John. Truth Games: Lies, Money, and Psychoanalysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
  • Frie, Roger, ed. Understanding Experience: Psychotherapy and Postmodernism. New York: Routledge, 2003.
  • Gardner, Sebastian. Irrationality and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Gay, Volney P. Freud on Sublimation: Reconsiderations. Albany, NY: State University Press, 1992.
  •  Gipps, Richard G.T. and Michael Lacewing, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2019.
  • Grünbaum, Adolf. The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984.
  • Lear, Jonathan. Love and Its Place in Nature: A Philosophical Interpretation of Freudian Psychoanalysis. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990.
  • Lear, Jonathan. Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
  • Lear, Jonathan. Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
  • Lear, Jonathan. Therapeutic Action: An Earnest Plea for Irony. New York: Other Press, 2003.
  • Lear, Jonathan. Freud. New York: Routledge, 2005.
  • Lear, Jonathan. Wisdom Won from Illness: Essays in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.
  • Levine, Michael P., ed. The Analytic Freud: Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge, 2000.
  • Levy, Donald. Freud Among the Philosophers: The Psychoanalytic Unconscious and Its Philosophical Critics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair C. The Unconscious: A Conceptual Study. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958.
  • Mills, Jon, ed. Psychoanalysis at the Limit: Epistemology, Mind, and the Question of Science. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004.
  • Mills, Jon, ed. Rereading Freud: Psychoanalysis through Philosophy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004.
  • Neu, Jerome, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Freud. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • O’Neill, John, ed. Freud and the Passions. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.
  • Ricoeur, Paul. Freud and Philosophy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970.
  • Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg. Mind in Action: Essays in the Philosophy of Mind. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1988.
  • Smith, David Livingstone. Freud’s Philosophy of the Unconscious. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1999.
  • Wallwork, Ernest. Psychoanalysis and Ethics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.
  • Whitebrook, Joel. Perversion and Utopia: A Study in Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995.
  • Wisdom, John. Philosophy and Psycho-Analysis. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1953.
  • Wollheim, Richard. The Thread of Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.
  • Wollheim, Richard. The Mind and Its Depths. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.
  • Wolheim, Richard and James Hopkins, eds. Philosophical Essays on Freud. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982.


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