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The Demanded Self

Levinasian Ethics and Identity in Psychology

by David M. Goodman

Publication Year: 2012

How does psychology attend to the question of “goodness”? Does the sense of self that modern psychologies promote help to orient persons toward ethical responsibility for the other person? In this book, David M. Goodman engages these questions, demonstrating that the prevalent discourse and constructs of the self in modern psychology not only fail to address such issues, but also contribute to the formation of a self lived without ethical regard for the other. In his penetrating and thought-provoking analysis of contemporary psychological theory and practice, Goodman critiques its “methodolatry” to scientific theory and emphasis on autonomous reason. Challenging the assumptions behind the naturalized, egological, and individualistic accounts of the self that dominate current approaches, he proposes an alternative by appealing to the philosophical work of Emmanuel Levinas. As Goodman indicates, Levinas’s phenomenology establishes an originary ethical attunement to the other, which precedes empirical and medical approaches to psychology that would consign ethics to a detached, secondary list of codes. Moving between historical analysis, illumination of contemporary psychological trends, and philosophical juxtapositions of Greek and Hebrew thought, Goodman demonstrates how the ethical dimension of human experience has too frequently been neglected within present constructs of the self and argues that Levinas’s demanded self serves as a radical corrective to the morally anemic definitions of the modern self. Ultimately, Goodman explains and details this countercultural version of the self—defined by its relation to the other and called into a “freedom born from responsibility”—and offers helpful corollary case studies and therapeutic practices that engender this sensibility. The Demanded Self provides a means of entering into the conversations taking place at the intersection of Levinas’s ethical theory, psychology, psychoanalysis, religion, and philosophy, and will appeal to scholars and advanced students in all of these fields.

Published by: Duquesne University Press


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pp. i-ii

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

When writing a book one draws dangerously close to the edge of utter absorption. And, ironically, while writing a work whose primary goal is to challenge the self-centering orientation of Western paradigms, I must admit that the writing...

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1. An Introduction

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pp. 1-22

In a museum housed in Prague’s Jewish Quarter, I stumbled upon an ancient tome inscribed with a definition of Judaism that frames the heart and intent of the following pages:...

Part One

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2. Jewgreek.Greekjew

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pp. 25-54

In the foreword to Wiesel’s Night (1960/1990), the French Catholic writer and Nobel Laureate François Mauriac exclaims, “I believe that on that day I touched for the first time upon the mystery of iniquity whose revelation was to mark the...

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3. The Idol of Reason

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pp. 55-72

In ancient Greece, truth, goodness, and beauty were qualities of the Divine and inexorably linked, mutually illuminating dimensions of life. Nonetheless, within Plato, Aristotle, and the traditions that followed, Western philosophy...

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4. The Normal Bell-Shaped Self

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pp. 73-94

Levinas’s fundamental criticism of the West centers on its use of the immanent order — nature and history — as a viable source of meaning and definition for the self. According to Levinas (1976/1990b), “If ‘know thyself ’ has become the fundamental...

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5. The Buffered Self

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pp. 95-116

A BBC series was produced in 2002 under the title The Century of the Self. Referring to the twentieth century, Adam Curtis (the series creator) explores the radical alterations that took place in how the human self was perceived...

Part Two

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6. Hineni and Transference

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pp. 119-144

Tucked away in the hills of France, there is a small town named Le Chambon. During World War II, Jews, fleeing from other regions of Vichy-controlled France and the advancing forces of Germany, were sheltered in its homes. At...

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7. Hearing “Thou Shalt Not Kill”

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pp. 145-158

Looking over my patient’s chart, I read the same disturbing comments found in many of the files: “Sexually molested by grandfather.” “Ritually beaten by his alcoholic father before the abandonment.” “Mother in and out of jail...

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8. The Psyche Awakened

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pp. 159-172

C. S. Lewis’s (1946) compelling allegory of heaven and hell, The Great Divorce, begins with its nameless main character standing in line at a bus stop in the civic center of a “grey town” that is “always in the rain and always in evening twilight” (1). Surrounding the bus stop are residences spread out in concentric...

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pp. 173-180

It is not unusual to read the word “prophet” in many secondary texts describing Levinas’s approach (Alford 2002; Ford 1999; Harold 2009). In his groundbreaking work The Prophets, Heschel (1962) provided an illuminating description...


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pp. 181-204


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pp. 205-224


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pp. 225-232

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705859
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704494

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2012