Westworld’s ‘Analysis Mode’ For Humans

In the course of a discussion about the various motivations underlying the character Robert Ford‘s actions in HBO’s Westworld, a friend raised the following query: In what senses would it be good, and in which bad, if human beings could put one another into ‘analysis mode’ like techs can do with hosts in the show?Continue reading “Westworld’s ‘Analysis Mode’ For Humans”

Simone Beauvoir On Psychotherapeutic Healing As Mutilation

In Simone de Beauvoir‘s The Mandarins (WW Norton, New York, 1954; 1999, pp. 64), Anne Dubreuilh, a practicing psychoanalyst wonders: Why does healing so often mean mutilating? What value does personal adjustment have in an unjust society?….My objective isn’t to give my patients a false feeling of inner peace; if I seek to deliver them from their personalContinue reading “Simone Beauvoir On Psychotherapeutic Healing As Mutilation”

Doris McIlwain On The Rationality Of ‘Irrational’ Love And Hate

In Living Palely: On the rationality of a certain fullness of feeling (Artlink, Vol 29 No. 3, 2009), Doris McIlwain writes:  Friendship and love are not fully rational enterprises. They become strangely symptomatic when we approach them as if they are….To me the sign that you really like someone is when you cannot quite offer a fullContinue reading “Doris McIlwain On The Rationality Of ‘Irrational’ Love And Hate”

Of Therapy And Personal And Academic Anxieties

Reading some of the discussion sparked by Peter Railton’s Dewey Lecture has prompted me to write this post. In the fall of 1996, I began studying for my Ph.D qualifier exams. I had worked full-time at a non-academic job for the previous year, saving up some money so that I could take a month orContinue reading “Of Therapy And Personal And Academic Anxieties”

On Not Recommending One’s Choices

Recently, all too often, I catch myself saying something like the following, “I took decision X, and I have my fair share of regrets and self-congratulation about it but I would not recommend X to anyone” or “In all honesty, I couldn’t recommend that you take decision X as I did.” Or something like that:Continue reading “On Not Recommending One’s Choices”

On Not ‘Interfering’ With Others’ Self-Conceptions

Sometimes, when I talk to friends, I hear them say things that to my ears sound like diminishments of themselves: “I don’t have the–intellectual or emotional or moral–quality X” or “I am not as good as Y when it comes to X.” They sound resigned to this self-description, this self-understanding. I think I see thingsContinue reading “On Not ‘Interfering’ With Others’ Self-Conceptions”

April Bernard on Margaret Drabble as Moral Psychologist

In reviewing a selection of Margaret Drabble‘s novels, April Bernard writes: Drabble, as a moralist, seems to believe that it is less important what and why we do what we do, than how we think about it—before, during, after….If the reason that a man always sins is that he is sinful, what matters can onlyContinue reading “April Bernard on Margaret Drabble as Moral Psychologist”

Adam Phillips on Self-Knowledge and the Unconscious

Adam Phillips, psychotherapist and essayist, can be a frustratingly elliptical writer. There are allusions, suggestions, shadings and hints in every passage. (I seem to dimly remember a frustrated reviewer in the New York or London Review of Books complaining about this characteristic slipperiness.) From these though, the diligent reader can often find a perspicuous insight,Continue reading “Adam Phillips on Self-Knowledge and the Unconscious”

Boethius’ Philosophy as Therapist

Here is a common way to think about the psychotherapeutic experience: the therapist helps the patient construct an alternative narrative of his or her life. Why is this therapeutic? The patient has offered the therapist a recounting–via a series of archaeological, genealogical forays into his past–of his life’s events, and describes how these have contributedContinue reading “Boethius’ Philosophy as Therapist”

Freud, Pointing to Poets

Some distinctive features of Sigmund Freud‘s writings are: a clarity of exposition–at least in works intended for more general audiences–which offset the density and novelty of the subject matter; a tendency to philosophize while simultaneously disdaining philosophical speculation; an unswerving overt commitment to science, scientific probity, virtue, and methodology; and lastly, and most entertainingly, a keenContinue reading “Freud, Pointing to Poets”