If the Modern was a time in culture which saw man as the centre of his thoughts, bringing to mind Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’, and in this context ushering in various philosophical schools such as existentialism, humanism and phenomenology, post-modernism – along with post-structuralism – may be described as the last attack on man’s narcissism. The reader may recognise here an expression first used by the inventor of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, arguably the first scientist and writer to establish what in effect post-modernism is all about: a decentering of man’s orbit of potency in his ‘being subject to’.
Just like Darwin before who himself had followed on Galileo’s scientific findings, Freud made us realise that man doesn’t stand at the centre of his choices as a conscious being; he is not the master of his thoughts and destiny but rather subjected to social influences such as Language (Lacan), the Other and Difference (Levinas), Oower and Knowledge relationships (Foucault), Undecidability and a constant deferral of Meaning (Derrida), or finally to the strange and disruptive (Kristeva).
Post-modern texts from post-modern writers are essential reading for analysts and psychotherapists alike; they contribute to an understanding of what the Subject is. Although not a post-modern thinker himself but a phenomenologist existentialist, Martin Heidegger can still be included in a post-modern context and quoted as saying ‘man is a question‘. This line of approach towards human beings is post-modern. A question essentially calls for some opening, shows the lack for a satisfying answer which would otherwise close off something in us. In the footstep of the Deutsh philosopher B. Spinoza Lacan would take on Heidegger’s view and himself declare that a questioning attitude equally dictates that man’s destiny to life. Indeed, for Lacan ‘Desire is a Question‘.
Post-modernism and its thinkers including Freud, Lacan, Levinas, Derrida and others invite us to wonder, question and challenge, starting with theory itself. This mental attitude, the scientist would argue, is a necessary condition for science (itself a hysterical discourse). In this sense post-modernism may be seen to refer to this idea of becoming – what Lacanians would express in terms of being a subject for one signifier in relation to another signifier (Cf my short introduction on the signifier).
Post-Modernism for Psychotherapists by D. Loewenthal and R. Snell has contributed significantly in my writing of my master thesis (conducted under prof D. Loewenthal at the University of Roehampton) and can be found here.
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- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (28 Aug. 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1583911014
- ISBN-13: 978-1583911013