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Ethical Dimension of Psychoanalysis, The

A Dialogue

W. W. Meissner

Publication Year: 2003

Addressing the common ground between ethics and psychoanalysis, W. W. Meissner asks “Does psychoanalysis have anything to contribute to ethical understanding and reflection?” and conversely, “Does ethics have anything to offer analytic understanding of the complexities of human behavior and decision-making?” Both disciplines focus their interest and concern not only on the inner well-being of the individual, but also on questions of his or her adaptation to the outside world, including both intimate personal relations as well as broader societal and communal relations. This book explores and explicates areas of interaction and common interest between these two disciplines in the hope of opening the way to further exploration and dialogue in the understanding of the human phenomenon.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii-ix

Psychoanalysis intersects with many areas of human interest, especially with disciplines concerned with understanding the organization and functioning of the human mind. Psychoanalysts have endeavored to engage in interdisciplinary dialogue with a wide range of scientific and humanistic ...

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CHAPTER ONE Freudian and Postfreudian Ethics

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pp. 121-26

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was not slow in expressing his ethical views, often based on arguments developed on the basis of his psychoanalytic perspective. I will begin this exploration with a consideration of his ethical views and those of some of his followers. Early psychoanalytic ...

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CHAPTER TWO Psychoanalysis and Ethical Systems

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pp. 27-52

My purpose in this chapter is to draw psychoanalysis into closer dialogue and engagement with ethical systems. Rather than scrutiny or critique of ethical systems, I hope to explore implications, points of congruence and consensus, tensions, ambiguities, and areas of conflict, even contradiction. Psychoanalysis for its part is far from a monolithic ...

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CHAPTER THREE Psychic Determinism and Motivational Principles

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pp. 53-71

Ethical decision-making requires a degree of autonomy and the capacity for free decision and choice in the ethical agent. We are immediately confronted, therefore, with the problem of determinism in psychic actions and the extent to which choice and autonomy can exist under conditions of psychic determinism.1 ...

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CHAPTER FOUR Volition and Will

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pp. 73-94

Our conclusions regarding psychic determinism, its relation to issues of causality, and the universality of the principle of determinism in psychic acts, led to questions regarding motivational variants. Certain motives correspond to the level of man’s intellective1 capacity and function. Matters of intellective motivation and appetition, along with functions of deciding ...

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CHAPTER FIVE Freedom of the Will

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pp. 95-112

Freud often cast aspersions on psychic freedom,1 for the most part, in defense of the determinism of inadvertent acts, like slips of the tongue, and against arbitrariness implied in appeals to psychic freedom. Such acts, he contended, were motivated and not simply haphazard or random.2 Freud’s criticisms of the subjective sense of freedom were intended to make ...

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CHAPTER SIX Psychodynamic Hedonism and the Pleasure Principle

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pp. 113-129

Psychoanalysts, beginning with Freud, have made a good deal of the role of pleasure in human motivation, considerations that led Freud to posit the pleasure principle as a central regulatory principle governing affects and motivation. Ethicists, under various guises, have appealed to a principle of ...

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CHAPTER SEVEN Narcissism and Egoism

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pp. 131-150

Probably no concept in the analytic lexicon carries as heavy a weight of ethical implication as narcissism. There is little in the realm of ethical action that is not tinged, if not deeply permeated, with narcissistic dynamics and implications. To think for a moment of the polarity of egoism versus ...

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CHAPTER EIGHT Object Love and Altruism

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pp. 151-175

The object relations viewpoint speaks directly to ethical dimensions insofar as relationships with others and particularly the capacity to invest in others and to engage in loving and caring involvements with significant others, are core ethical concerns. The tension between narcissistic self-investment ...

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CHAPTER NINE Ethical Decision-Making and Self-Deception

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pp. 177-194

Given the executive role of the will in generating and directing psychic and bodily action, the decision-making process, by which the subject determines upon and directs himself to a specific course of action, becomes central to any assessment of ethical reflection and calls for psychoanalytic conceptualization.1 While that process is probably best conceived as a function ...

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CHAPTER TEN Responsibility

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pp. 195-216

Freud’s recognition that the neurotic had little or no control over unconscious wishes and defenses implied that the patient bore no moral or ethical responsibility for results of these unconscious determinants. He also recognized that development of the human person normally leads to an ...

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CHAPTER ELEVEN Superego and Moral Development

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pp. 217-240

The locus of ethical action in the classical structural theory is the superego. Freud introduced the superego particularly to explain unconscious guilt. But our understanding of moral development in general and of superego development specifically is still largely incomplete. In this and in chapter 12, I will ...

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CHAPTER TWELVE Superego Functions and Conscience

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pp. 241-266

For the most part, ethical functions of superego involve integration with ego capacities in various forms (Muslin 1972). Joseph Sandler (1960) referred to the gradual absorption of superego functions into the ego as “conceptual dissolution of the superego” (p. 130). These concepts point toward a more nuanced understanding of superego integration with ego and ...

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN Character and Virtue

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pp. 267-284

The analytic psychology of character evolved through early formulations in terms of libido theory, later additions in structural terms, and later still in terms of the organization of the self. “Character” came to refer to the unique integration of structural constituents reflecting more-or-less enduring qualities of the personality ...

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pp. 285-298

We have frequently referred in the course of this discussion to values as directive principles guiding ethical choices and actions. The concept of ethical action postulates the human person as the dynamic ethical agent, who resolves the tensions of needs and desires by selecting goals and choosing means and ends in terms of internalized values and value-systems. ...


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pp. 299-323


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pp. 325-353

Index of Names

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pp. 355-360

Subject Index

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pp. 361-371

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487082
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791456897
Print-ISBN-10: 0791456897

Page Count: 381
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture