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Psychoanalysis, Monotheism and Morality

Psychoanalysis, Monotheism and Morality: The Sigmund Freud Museum Symposia 2009-2011

Wolfgang Müller-Funk
Ingrid Scholz-Strasser
Herman Westerink
In collaboration with Daniela Finzi
Volume: 12
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Psychoanalysis, Monotheism and Morality
    Book Description:

    In this volume renowned experts in psychoanalysis reflect on the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion, in particular presenting various controversial interpretations of the question if and to what extent monotheism semantically and structurally fits psychoanalytic insights.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-080-0
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
    (pp. 7-8)
    Inge Scholz-Strasser
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 9-14)
    Wolfgang Müller-Funk and Herman Westerink

    This book works out and connects the results of two ambitious international conferences held between 2009 and 2011 organised by the Sigmund Freud Foundation in Vienna: ‘The Force of Monotheism’ and ‘Does Psychoanalysis Set Limits? Authority, Norms, Law, …and Perversion’. The first refers to the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion, especially ‘Monotheism’, the other is focused on the question of whether Freud’s theory entails a normative framework and therefore at least an implicit value system, something like a modern ethics. What the two research issues have in common is that both quite clearly have a cultural frame. Culture in a...

  3. Part I: The Forces of Monotheism

    • Moses’ Heritage. Psychoanalysis between Anthropology, History and Enlightenment
      (pp. 17-30)
      Wolfgang Müller-Funk

      Freud’s essayDer Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religionis out on a limb, not only because it is a late work and not only because there is, as is often observed, a mirroring effect in the text that confronts us with Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, as the double and the counterpart of Moses, the founder of Jewish monotheism. Prolonging Freud’s story on Moses, Freud could be seen as the third Moses, the Moses after his second – symbolic – death.

      But Freud’s highly speculative text is also prominent, because it is a summary of his oeuvre that is...

    • The Jewish Tradition in Sigmund Freud’s Work
      (pp. 31-48)
      Felix de Mendelssohn

      On the 6th of January 1935 Freud wrote to his student Lou Andreas-Salomé in Göttingen:

      “My dear Lou, I can add to what you have learned about my latest work. It started out from the question: what was it that shaped the specific character of the Jew? I came to the conclusion that the Jew was a creation of a man, Moses. Who was this Moses and what were his achievements? The answer is given in a kind of historical novel. Moses was not a Jew .....”¹

      Freud then summarises his hypotheses: Moses was a high-ranking Egyptian civil servant and...

    • Islam in Light of Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 49-60)
      Fethi Benslama

      In the mid-eighties it seemed to me necessary to deal with Islam from a psychoanalytic perspective, although for my part there was no previous indication this task would be necessary, since Islam occupied a ghostly presence in the psychoanalytic literature. I say ‘ghostly’ because it appeared sporadically and as a missing element, one already included in our field, dedicated as it is to religion and – more specifically – monotheism. There this concept was usually reduced to Judaism and Christianity. In addition, at the time I had the feeling I was intruding into familiar space if not that of Judeo-Christianity,...

  4. Part II: Religion and its Critiques

    • Freud’s Conception of Religion within the Context of the Modernist Critical Discourse
      (pp. 63-74)
      Moshe Zuckermann

      A critique of religion can take various forms. The form it takes can range from an immanent investigation of dogmas, and thus of intra-religious animosities arising from differing conceptions of God and belief, to a critique of religious institutions, which nonetheless does not call belief into question as such. Or it can go further, to the point of an agnostic questioning of the very existence of a god or the atheistic assertion of his nonexistence, that is, to a negation of the relevance of any and every religious belief. The concept of critique varies according to the nature of its...

    • The Need to Believe and the Desire to Know, Today
      (pp. 75-92)
      Julia Kristeva

      When approaching the immense continent of religious experience from a psychoanalytical point of view, my thoughts are directed to Sigmund Freud, to his genius that, fromTotem and Taboo(1912) andMoses and Monotheism(1930) – to only cite these two – opened up a new way of thinking religious experience. By thinking about it, I mean: by living through it. I would like to address, here, the paternal function of Moses. Freud explored this fundamental axis of monotheism while attentively studying neurosis and psychosis, relying heavily on its tragic dramatisation by Sophocles, and the anthropology of the late 19th...

  5. Part III: Femininity and the Figure of the Father

    • Monotheism and the “Repudiation of Femininity”
      (pp. 95-112)
      Joel Whitebook

      At its heart, Western civilisation contains a drive towards unification. This drive, according to thinkers from a number of theoretical persuasions, helps to explain the link between Occidental rationality and the project of domination. When the multifariousness of existence is reduced to unity, when the unique entity is subsumed under the abstract universal and transformed into a fungible cipher, the world becomes the stuff of domination. As Horkheimer and Adorno observe: “From Parmenides to Russell, unity is the slogan of the Enlightenment.” According to instrumental reason, everything that “does not reduce to numbers, and ultimately to the one, becomes illusion”....

    • Fort!/Da! Through the Chador: The Paradox of the Woman’s Invisibility and Visibility
      (pp. 113-132)
      Siamak Movahedi and Gohar Homayounpour

      “[E]ach of us enters the world through the body of a woman, – a carnal enigma that has virtually baffled our systems of understanding, rather than fleeing, condemning, or idealising the body of the (m)other, we need to recognize her in ourselves,” writes Sprengnether.¹ Perhaps it is the recognition of her in us that is too threatening as a secret to be divulged, and perhaps it is the recognition of her in ourselves that revives the trauma of her loss. The body of the m(o)ther – the mother and the woman as the other – has always been under attack...

  6. Part IV: Morality

    • The Two Sources of Morality in Freud’s Work
      (pp. 135-142)
      Gilles Ribault

      It has been already pointed out that Freud’s statements about morality seem to be ambiguous and even contradictory. On the one hand, we know that Freud is an eager advocate of cultural institutions and of all that human civilisation has acquired throughout its history in regard to spirituality or a sense of an ideal. By reading his work, we can learn that culture stands for the progress that has led human beings beyond animality. Morality and its rules appear, from this vantage point, as a sharp and sometimes cruel principle of renunciation that humanity needs in order to master its...

    • On Moral Responsibility: A Freudian Perspective
      (pp. 143-154)
      Herman Westerink

      My interest in the issue of moral responsibility in Freud’s writings has been triggered by a larger project I have been working on over the past two years: the filiation between Freudian psychoanalysis and Reformation thought – a project which originated from a single germ cell, namely a statement in Lacan’s seminar on the ethics of psychoanalysis where he suggests that we can only fully understand the moral problems Freudian psychoanalysis addresses when we recognise the filiation or cultural paternity with certain aspects of Martin Luther’s theology in particular, and Reformation thought in general.¹ If we would be contented with...

    • Pathology and Moral Courage in Freud’s Early Case Histories
      (pp. 155-172)
      Céline Surprenant

      In characterising the difference between the Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud approaches to the causes of hysteria, James Strachey, the English editor of theStudies on Hysteria, spoke of a “remarkable paradox” concerning the scientists’ intentions and what they actually achieved. While Breuer aimed to deal with psychical processes in “the language of psychology”, he explained hysteria by dealing with the nervous system as an electrical one, replete with “intercerebral excitations”. As for Freud, he hoped to develop a physiological and chemical explanation of hysteria but in fact presented psychological analyses.¹ In that description, one of the registers of the...

  7. Part V: Law and Perversion

    • Does Perversion Need the Law?
      (pp. 175-184)
      Sergio Benvenuto

      In Francophone countries, many persons – even if they are not analysts – have a rather precise idea of what constitutes a perverse person, whom they would say, more or less, is “someone who needs the Law in order to take enjoyment” – a view undoubtedly owing to a certain popularisation of Lacanian thinking in that culture. For them, a perverse person needs to assume a virtual prohibition in order to exploit it for sexual pleasure, because he is above all someone who perverts (side-tracks) the moral law, who uses it not to be good (that is, to obey the...

    • Outlawed by Nature? A Critique of Some Current Psychiatric and Psychoanalytic Theories of Sexual Perversion
      (pp. 185-198)
      Andreas De Block and Lode Lauwaert

      In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association organised a symposium under the title ‘Should Homosexuality be in the APA Nomenclature?’ The second edition of the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM) had unambiguously qualified homosexuality as a mental disorder. But throughout the 1960s, this view came under increasing attack from a variety of theoreticians and lay people. Anti-psychiatrists and biological psychiatrists joined forces with gay activists against the majority of (psychoanalytic) psychiatrists, because they felt that labelling homosexuality a disease was more a matter of ideology than of science.

      The participants in the symposium had to come up with...

  8. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 209-212)