Psychoanalysis and Philosophy: 12 week evening course, London

14 April 2016 - 30 June 2016
Thursdays, 6.30-8.30pm


Freud was famously ambivalent about philosophy: on the one hand, pouring scorn on academic philosophers who dismissed the notion of the unconscious mind on the pretext that it involved a logical contradiction – while on the other, stating proudly in his autobiography that after a long detour through medicine and psychotherapy he had finally returned to the philosophical preoccupations of his youth. The course will examine the ways in which psychoanalysis and philosophy inform each other, and intersect with each other - sometimes in mutual support and sometimes in sharp conflict. We begin with the great philosophers of the past who influenced and inspired Freud and later psychoanalysts, then, in the second half of the course, turn to contemporary philosophers who have reflected on psychoanalysis, either critically, or with the aim of clarifying the nature of its contribution to the understanding of the human condition.


Tutor: Keith Barrett BA PhD - having received his PhD from the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London, Dr Barrett specialises in both philosophy and psychoanalysis and has taught at several leading institutions, including Imperial College and Birkbeck College.

Week 1: Introduction. Freud’s study of philosophy as an undergraduate. The deep philosophical background to the emergence of psychoanalysis: the Enlightenment vision vs Romanticism.

Week 2: Schopenhauer. The formative influence on Freud’s thinking of the philosophy of Schopenhauer. ‘The World as Will and Representation’.

Week 3: Nietzsche. Anticipations of psychoanalysis in the philosophy of Nietzsche. Freud and Jung and their different relationships to Nietzsche. Psychoanalysing philosophy.

Week 4: Plato. ‘Eros’ in Plato and Freud. Freud’s view of homosexuality and Plato’s philosophy. Plato’s ‘Symposium’. Freud between Plato and Nietzsche.

Week 5: Spinoza. Sometimes referred to as ‘the philosopher of psychoanalysis’, we will examine Spinoza’s understanding of the mind/body relationship, and his views on freedom and happiness. Spinoza’s ‘Ethics’

Week 6: Popper and Grunbaum. The 20th century debate over the scientific status of psychoanalysis. Grunbaum’s ‘The Philosophical Foundations of Psychoanalysis’

Week 7: Ricoeur and Habermas. The debate over the interpretation of psychoanalysis as hermeneutics. Ricoeur’s ‘Freud and Philosophy’

Week 8: Levinas and Buber. Psychoanalysis and the philosophy of the ethical relation to the other. Levinas’ ‘Totality and Infinity’ and Buber’s ‘I and Thou’

Week 9: Marcuse and Girard. Philosophical responses to Freud’s analysis of society. Marcuse’s ‘Eros and Civilisation’ and Girard’s ‘Violence and the Sacred’. Freud and violence.

Week 10: Foucault. Foucault’s earlier view of psychoanalysis in ‘Madness and Civilisation’, and his later view in ‘History of Sexuality, vol 1’.

Week 11: Lacan. Lacan’s appropriation of philosophy for the ends of psychoanalysis. Hegel, Heidegger and Freud, according to Lacan.

Week 12: Derrida. Derrida’s relation to psychoanalysis. Derrida vs Lacan. Derrida in the Freud archives: ‘Archive Fever’

More info here.

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