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The Moral Posture of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy: The Case for Moral Ambiguity

The Moral Posture of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy: The Case for Moral Ambiguity

Chapter:
(p.31) Chapter Four The Moral Posture of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy: The Case for Moral Ambiguity
Source:
Moral Stealth
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226301365.003.0005

One question that may be considered self-evident and thus unnecessary to posit is what the requirement of a set of moral standards means to psychoanalysis and to a psychoanalyst. If we concentrate on just a few of the virtues expected of an analyst, we may necessarily overlook others. Emmanuel Levinas claims that ethics arise in relation to the other and not from a law, while Owen Flanagan states that “morality resists theoretical unification under either a set of special-purpose rules or a single general-purpose rule or principle, such as the categorical imperative or the principle of utility.” Flanagan's alternate or non-foundational stance invites a critical examination of the possible heterogeneity of the moral standards for life, especially those that so dominate the practice of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis has something to offer the state of moral ambiguity, and so needs to foster the experience of not knowing too quickly if we have or have not done the right thing. In fact, ambivalence and uncertainty are hallmarks of the psychoanalytic enterprise.

Keywords:   moral standards, ethics, morality, Owen Flanagan, Emmanuel Levinas, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, moral ambiguity, ambivalence, virtues

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