Thursday 4 December 2014

Philosophy and Psychoanalysis in Dialogue

This week we feature a report on a conference on the dialogue between philosophy and psychoanalysis. The author, Marthe Kerkwijk, is a graduate student at Heythrop College, University of London.

Senate House, London
On Friday 17th and Saturday 18th of October, Heythrop College, London, the Institute of Philosophy and the Institute of Psychoanalysis co-organised a conference on the dialogue between philosophy and psychoanalysis. Philosophers' critical evaluations of the methodologies of psychoanalysis are well known, but in the last few decades philosophy and psychoanalysis have mutually influenced each other in more constructive ways. The conference brought together prominent scholars whose work navigates the intersection between philosophy and psychoanalysis in order to reinforce fruitful dialogue between both disciplines. Jonathan Lear, professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago and psychoanalyst, delivered the keynote address. The conference took place in the Chancellors Hall in Senate House and attracted more than 120 delegates.

Jonathan Lear's keynote address on Friday evening was titled 'The fundamental rule'. Lear proposed the thesis that the significance of psychoanalysis to philosophy is best thought of as a practical and ethical engagement rather than in terms of any of its theoretical claims. This idea hinges on what Freud called 'the fundamental rule': the task to speak one's mind without inhibitions. This is a very difficult rule to follow, but the unfolding of self-consciousness is recognised since the Socratic tradition as an activity that marks us as human. Psychoanalysis is not only helpful in our understanding of the human mind, but the psychoanalytic process shows us how it could be that truth cures.

The remaining presentations were organised in panels, each about a domain in which philosophy and psychoanalysis meet.

Panel A: Psychoanalysis: the empirical evidence base discussed the scientific status of psychoanalysis and empirical evidence base of psychoanalysis, with papers by Morris Eagle (psychoanalyst, NYU), James Hopkins (philosopher, King's College, London and UCL) and Mary Target (psychoanalyst, UCL), chaired by Michael Lacewing (philosopher, Heythrop College, London).

Panel B: Psychoanalysis, philosophy and religion discussed how psychoanalysis and philosophy respectively might relate to religion, with papers by David Black (psychoanalyst, British Psychoanalytical Society), Beverley Clack (philosopher, Oxford Brookes) and John Cottingham (philosopher, Heythrop and Reading), chaired by Denis Flynn (psychoanalyst, British Psychoanalytical Society).

Panel C: Ethics discussed the virtues and values underlying psychoanalytic practices, with papers by Michael Lacewing, Margaret Rustin (psychoanalyst, British Psychoanalytical Society and Tavistock) and Bennett Simon (psychoanalyst, Harvard and Boston Psychoanalytic Society), chaired by Edward Harcourt (philosopher, Oxford).

Katalin Farkas and the other panelists in Panel D
Panel D: Mind and self-knowledge discussed the significance and limitations of knowing our own mind and that of others for philosophy, with papers by Katalin Farkas (philosopher, Central European University), Adam Leite (philosopher, Indiana) and Edna O'Shaughnessy (psychoanalyst, British Psychoanalytical Society and Tavistock), chaired by David Bell (psychoanalyst, British Psychoanalytical Society and Tavistock).

Panel E: Art and Aesthetics discussed how art might relate to the minds of the artist and audience, with papers by Jenefer Robinson (philosopher, Cincinnati), Francis Grier (psychoanalyst and composer, British Psychoanalytical Society) and Jeremy Lewison (freelance curator, British Psychoanalytical Society), chaired by John Lawrence (psychoanalyst, British Psychoanalytical Society.

The conference closed with a lively plenary discussion in which the topics of all panels were discussed and brought together.

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