Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Four: An Ethic of Free Association

Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Four: An Ethic of Free Association

Article excerpt

Questioning a Uniform and Coercive Code of Ethics

In the question of ethics, the emphasis falls on a continuing process of thinking that diagnoses, criticizes, clarifies by means of questions, déstructures the components of meaning and power that silently shape our lives together, and also questions the values and concepts that have rulegoverning and axiomatic power in our culture. ...The question of ethics does not arise outside of ethics, but from within it. Its thought is disciplined by efforts to maintain questionableness, by learning how to ask questions in given settings, and by finding its own heritage and problems. ...There is a subversiveness in such processes vis-a-vis the normal and ordinary, a subversiveness not unlike that of poets and philosophers who are routinely excluded or silenced by totalitarian regimes. But subversiveness is neither a goal nor an ideal for the question of ethics. Its goal is to rethink, rework, rewrite, to listen again to the cultural inevitabilities that make us who we are and to affirm the transformative process without sense of origin or teleology.

- Charles E Scott, The Question of Ethics

A culture's world view, dominant rationality, and core ideology provide the defining context that speaks to how a culture understands and interprets itself. A culture's ethical doctrine provides the text that speaks to the body of values by which a culture understands and interprets itself with regard to what is good and bad and right and wrong (Scott, 1990). A culture's ethical doctrine is inextricably to its view of people and theory of life. It defines, reflects, and perpetuates that which is held out to be the dignity, the values, and the ideals of human life. Finally, the ethical doctrine reflects the ethos, the underlying system of values, which permeates and colorizes the ideological strands in the culture's fabric. This broad-based understanding of ethics speaks to the inseparable interweave of the culture's world view and ideology with its core beliefs and values. As a doctrine, ethics refers to a grouping of principles that provide the moral foundations underlying legitimate knowledge, sound value judgments, and good conduct in the discourse of everyday life. Ethics, it has been said, is the point at which philosophers come closest to practical issues in morals and politics (Hare, 1997). Ethics, it might also be said, speaks to the practical relevance of moral philosophy in the lived experiences of everyday life as both citizens and professionals.

In the psychoanalytic culture, the legacy of Freud has been described as a dialectic in which every psychoanalytic proposition blends science with humanism (Bornstein, 1985). Historically, this legacy has guided the development of psychoanalysis from the paradigm of biology, medicine, and the natural sciences-a way of thinking that continues to dominate in the analytic culture to this day. In this modernistic mythology, a natural science of the mind is unprejudiced and unmediated by theories, assumptions, or values, and humanism provides the values that humanize the harshness of the science and its objectively discovered knowledges. In this medicalized version of psychoanalysis, the largely unquestioned biomedical objectives of curing and healing various psychic structures are contextualized by the humanistic values of caring and helping to alleviate pain and suffering. Historically, psychoanalytic organizations have actively advanced psychoanalysis as a health care profession, or a specialty thereof. Each of the major psychologies of drive, ego, object, and self have understood people from the organizing conceptual framework of symptomatology, etiology, and pathology, and psychoanalysis has been considered to be a medical technique concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of various mental disorders, diseases, and illnesses. Not surprisingly, the moral foundations for ethical directions, decisions, and conduct for the psychologist-psychoanalyst are to be found in a medical code of ethics such as the American Psychological Association's (APA, 1992) The Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. …

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