Analytic training, it is true, cuts across the field of medical education, but neither includes the other. If—which may sound fantastic to-day—one had to found a college of psycho-analysis, much would have to be taught in it which is also taught by the medical faculty: alongside of depth-psychology, which would always remain the principal subject, there would be an introduction to biology, as much as possible of the science of sexual life, and familiarity with the symptomatology of psychiatry. On the other hand, analytic instruction would include branches of knowledge which are remote from medicine and which the doctor does not come across in his practice: the history of civilization, mythology, the psychology of religion and the science of literature. Unless he is well at home in these subjects, an analyst can make nothing of a large amount of his material.
— Sigmund Freud, The Question of Lay Analysis
The Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry will be holding a pilot version of its ‘Summer Institute’ between Friday, August 2, and Sunday, August 4 in the Mt. Airy Neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. The pilot project will test out an initiative in development to establish a biennial, week-long program to introduce psychoanalytic ideas to lay people, students and mental health workers through topics in biology, history, anthropology and the arts.
This year’s pilot institute will consist of seminar tracks in the fields of biology, history of religion, and social theory; daily conversations with practicing analysts on questions of contemporary psychoanalysis and society; and an evening symposium engaging in a psychoanalytically informed investigation of the autobiographical writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Readings and Session Descriptions are posted under the pages for each educational track.
Between Biology and Psychology
This part of the curriculum will introduce students to the conceptual problems of biology as they relate to Freud’s psychological theories and major developments in psychoanalysis. It will introduce the principles of evolutionary biology, through the critical history of Darwin’s theories; sketch the main contours of human sexual diversity; and review the major forms of psychopathology. We will situate first-person, psychological approaches to personal history within the larger intellectual context of struggles to understand the diversity of life. To do this, we introduce relevant biological distinctions, such as organism, population and species, and explanatory theories such as natural selection, where they clarify concepts at the frontier of biology and psychology: e.g. instinct, drive, adaptation and attachment.
Session I: Darwin’s Revolution.
Since antiquity, natural philosophers and scientists struggled to understand how the manifest diversity of life has come about. The biological forms were thought to be unchanging and of divine origin. Charles Darwin proposed a revolutionary break in the dominant paradigm: He argued that life forms gradually passed into one another, sharing common descent; he developed the theory of natural selection to explain these transformations that had eluded human understanding. In so doing, he recognized that the science of life, unlike the physical sciences, is essentially historical. This seminar will introduce the theory of natural selection to demonstrate that it is a historical theory that offers specific kinds of explanation about organic forms, which we will call ‘genetic.’ We will distinguish between genetic-causative theories in biology, on the one hand, and functional-teleological explanations, on the other, and suggest how the insights of evolutionary biology show us some of the limits of thinking in terms of functions.
- Charles Darwin, “Recapitulation and Conclusion,” On the Origin of Species (1st Ed.)
- Ernst Mayr, Excerpts from The Growth of Biological Thought
Session II: Forum on Biology and Psychoanalysis: Sexual Orientation
This short session will introduce the Nobel laureate Eric R. Kandel’s recent proposal to integrate psychoanalysis into the biology of the brain. Kandel suggests that psychoanalytic institutions have deprived themselves of the scholarly rigor and skepticism that have made possible the scientific advances of the 20th century life sciences, exemplified, in his view, with the exciting discoveries of cognitive neuroscience into the inner workings of the brain. Yet to what extent is the biology of the brain relevant to understanding the personal lives of men and women in modern society? We will consider this question in light of controversies over the biological determinants of sexual orientation, seeking clues into the knotty relationship of biological explanations to psychoanalytic inquiry.
- Eric R. Kandel, “Biology and the Future of Psychoanalysis: A New Intellectual Framework for Psychiatry Revisited”
- Bertram J. Cohler and Robert M. Galatzer-Levy, “Biology, Sexuality, and the Foundation of Human Sexual Orientation” from The Course of Gay and Lesbian Lives
- History and Freud’s Theory of Sexuality: https://vimeo.com/69977222
History, Civilization, Society
This track aims to introduce key phenomena and problems from social history and social theory that challenge or illuminate the investigation into the individual and into freedom that psycho-analysis takes as its mission.
Session I: Capitalism, Civilization, Renunciation
Economic theory relies on the basic premise that economy exists for human creatures to most efficiently fulfill the demands of infinite needs in a world of scarcity. Its function is maximal possible satisfaction. Moreover, if any economic and social system were to lay claim to being a satisfaction-machine, it would be capitalism. Capitalist society has raised the standard of living across much of humanity and presents itself as a profusion of commodities together offering myriad possibilities of satisfaction to all comers. We are a consumer society, obsessed with slaking every momentary thirst. Yet several key social theories have claimed that capitalist society is the apotheosis of a civilization whose fundamental characteristic is renunciation — we are all monks, without knowing it. Rather than see our society as an individualism run wild, instead individuals are dragged along the heaving process of social reproduction, with all the pain that suggests. Can we make sense of such a claim? How are satisfaction and renunciation intertwined in the capitalist world system? How can a system both rely on our activity and deny our happiness?
- Marx, “Speech at the Anniversary of the People’s Paper” (1856)
- Marx, excerpt from Capital Volume III, (from “The Trinity Formula”)
- Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment. Selection, “The Concept of Enlightenment”
- Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment. “Excursus I: Odysseus, or, Myth and Enlightenment.”
- Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, Chapters IV and V
Session II: Party and Progress
August 4, 1914. 99 years ago, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), the largest and by nearly any measure most successful revolutionary socialist party in the industrialized countries of the world approved, through its parliamentary representatives, war credits to fund the First World War. It was a deep betrayal of the internationalist principles the party had proclaimed since its inception; it scotched the hopes of a generation who had seen in socialism an alternative to the barbarism of class society, war, and destruction. This decision sent shockwaves – it had decisive significance for the outcome of the German Revolution that would break out in 1918, for the direction of the Russian Revolution, and for the eventual rise of Nazism. In this session, we will examine two theories of the collapse of the socialist party’s mission. One, under the name “the iron law of oligarchy” was presented in Robert Michels’s 1911 book Political Parties – he saw the result of the war as a confirmation of his sociological analysis and predictions concerning the conservative character of the leadership that necessarily develops in democratic societies. The second, presented in several works by Wilhelm Reich is a theory predicated on a psycho-analytically influenced claim about the significance in conservative character-types in preventing mass action in the name of freedom. We will mine these theories for their general significance to the question of human liberation, and will assess their contemporary relevance under changed civilizational conditions. Along with the readings, participants are encouraged to do some independent research on early 20th century social democracy, especially the German Party.
- Robert Michels, Political Parties, Excerpts
- Wilhelm Reich, “Ideology as a Material Power” from The Mass Psychology of Fascism
Religion, Myth, and Religious Psychology
This track aims to introduce the basic approaches of the psychoanalytic study of religion, as well as to demonstrate that the history of religions is an important branch of knowledge for understanding individual and cultural forms of the psyche. The track approaches these goals through 1) the interrogation of key concepts in psychoanalytic thought on religion, and 2) text-based analyses and interpretations of the religious ideas, rituals, and institutions. Through these activities the track aims to stimulate psychoanalytically informed research into the history of religions, as well as to draw attention to the importance of understanding pre-modern and religious life forms for interpreting modern and secularized thought and practices.
Session I: The Metapsychology of Illusion
It is well known that the strength of Freud’s opposition to religious tradition was only matched by the strength of his interest in analyzing it. In The Future of an Illusion, Freud identifies the psychical origin of the religious phenomenon as ‘illusion’: “fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind.” After a short introduction to Freud’s economic (techniques of happiness), phylogenetic (archaic wish-structure and exemplary history), and historical (‘spiritual progress/ regress’) accounts of religion, this seminar will examine Freud’s attempt to understand religion through approaching ‘illusion’ from a metapsychological perspective. Religion, as illusion that functions on large historical scale, appears at the center of a tangled network of substitution, fantasy and repression with its roots in the two great myths of psychoanalysis: the murder of the primal father and the dissolution of the oedipus complex. The concept of illusion will be situated with regard to the psychoanalytic account of the genesis and status of judgment, reason, reality, and the external world.
- Jonathan Z. Smith, “Religion, Religions, Religious”
- Future of an Illusion, Chapter VI
- Civilization and Its Discontents, Chapter II
- Selections, “The Return of Totemism in Childhood”
- Excerpts, Metapsychological Writings
Session II: The Libidinal Economics of Universal Love
Freud’s account of religious history in Moses and Monotheism and Civilization and its Discontents suggests that the historic trajectory of western Judaeo-Christianity can be understood as repetitive illusions of departure and return, in which spiritual progress is simultaneously a regress to more originary forms of religious imagination. Christianity claims its prerogative of spiritual progress in the commandment to universally “love thy neighbor” — a commandment with a hardy afterlife in secularized humanistic thought. This seminar will examine the Christian claim to spiritual progress, as presented in Kierkegaard’s essay Works of Love, with respect to the libidinal economics of psychoanalysis. How does the injunction to love thy neighbor appear at the same time as both a return to the most archaic religious ideas and as the crowning height of the most guilt-ridden, civilized-and-discontented society in history?
- Kierkegaard, Soren. “Works of Love”
- Civilization and Its Discontents, Selections
- Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Selections
- Selections, Moses and Monotheism
Rousseau and Reverie
” …it still seems like a dream to me. I still imagine that I am being tormented by indigestion, that I am sleeping badly, and that I am going to wake up fully relieved of my pain and find myself once again with friends. No doubt about it, I must have unwittingly made a jump from wakefulness to sleep or rather from life to death. Dragged, I know not how, out of the order of things, I have seen myself cast into an incomprehensible chaos of where I distinguish nothing at all; the more I think about my present situation the less I can understand where I am…These pages will, properly speaking, be only a shapeless diary of my reveries.”
The Reveries of the Solitary Walker is the last work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, nearly complete at the time of his death. Organized in 10 ‘walks’, the Reveries mix memories, observations, descriptions, and reflections as Rousseau attempts to give an account of himself.
The Reverie session is intended as an informal ‘disorientation’ seminar to end each day. It is an opportunity to engage in psychoanalytically informed interpretation of literary, philosophical, and autobiographical material. Weather permitting, we will discuss Rousseau’s ‘walks’ on walks of our own. We will focus on Walks 1-2, walk 6, and walks 9-10 on our first, second, and third sessions respectively.
- Reveries of a Solitary Walker, Selected Walks
- Reveries, Walk Six
- “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming”
- “On the Mechanism of Paranoia”
- “Note on the Mystic Writing Pad”
- “Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis”
- Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Chapter IV