Psychoanalytic Theory as Social Practice

Title: Out of the Consulting Room and into the World: Hermeneutic Dialogue, Phronesis, and Psychoanalytic Theory as Practice
Author: Timothy J. Zeddies

Abstract: One of the relics of positivism has been an underappreciation of the moral and ethical dimensions of psychoanalytic theory and practice. In a positivist metapsychology, cure and therapeutic gain were often defined instrumentally, with relatively little consideration given to aspects of human experience (e.g., moral, cultural, spiritual) that did not fit within a positivist framework. Conceptual and paradigmatic shifts in psychoanalysis have occurred, in part, because of the inability of the classical model to provide a language that adequately captures deeply felt human values and beliefs. Aided by hermeneutic and postmodern influences, many contemporary psychoanalytic theories are beginning to focus greater attention on the notion that analytic therapy is empowered by a set of ethical convictions, beliefs, and commitments, which are tied to a certain understanding of the good life. Along these lines, the author argues that developing a fresh understanding of the moral and ethical dimensions of psychoanalysis requires elaborating a new ontology of human subjectivity and social life. The author offers a sketch of how this gargantuan task might be started by integrating psychoanalysis within a hermeneutic perspective on dialogue, by suggesting that it would be helpful to view psychoanalysis as promoting Aristotelian practical wisdom or phronesis, and by rethinking psychoanalytic theory and interpretation as a form of practice.

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