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Morality, Psychology, Philosophy
על יחסי הפילוסופיה והפסיכולוגיה, על תפישות פסיכולוגיות של המוסר, על מקומו הראוי של הדיון המוסרי.
Morality, Psychology, Philosophy
Lydia B. Amir
In Philosophical Practice, vol. 1, n.1, pp. 43-57, 2005.
Ó 2005. All rights reserved Lydia Amir.
Abstract: In the last century, Psychology has taken over moral questions. Theoretically, it has incorporated moral views into its various theories; practically, psychotherapists use moral discourse in their practice even when not substantiated by theory, as there seem to be a gap between what the theory can offer and the clients' need. I probe the views on morality incorporated in psychological theories in order to expose their unsatisfactory content. I then point out that the practice of psychotherapy makes use of moral discussion. An important consequence of the insufficiency of the theory is that the discussion that actually takes place is in most cases unsubstantiated by theory. I conclude, therefore, that psychologists are not trained to do what they are doing. Moreover, the examination of historical and social factors that led to this situation suggests the conclusion that the role of discussing moral and ethical questions should be taken over by philosophical counselors. One consequence of the argument is that by answering a need in our society created by the weakening of established religion, philosophical practice is much demanded today without being necessarily in opposition to Psychology or psychologists.
In the last century, Psychology has taken over moral questions: theoretically, it has incorporated moral views into its various theories; practically, psychotherapists use moral discourse in their practice even when not substantiated by theory, as there seem to be a gap between what the theory can offer and the clients' need. I probe the views on morality incorporated in psychological theories in order to expose their unsatisfactory content. I point out that the practice of psychotherapy necessarily makes use of moral discussions. As the theory is insufficient, these discussions are in most cases unsubstantiated by it. I conclude, therefore, that psychologists are not trained to do what they are doing. Examining the historical and social reasons for this situation, I reach the conclusion that the role of discussing moral questions should be taken over by philosophical counselors.
Granted that counselees come to philosophical counseling in order to answer moral, existential and spiritual problems (Howard,2003) or questions (Amir,2003), the conclusion above can be expanded: existential and spiritual questions pertain to ethics in the wide sense, that is, to the area of philosophy which attempts to answer the question, "how should I live?". An investigation of values is required in order to answer this question. As only philosophers are professionally trained in value inquiry and in ethics in general, spiritual and existential questions pertain to the legitimate domain of philosophical practice, no less than moral questions. Hence, philosophical practitioners are needed today both for questions in the narrow sense of "moral" and in the wider one of "ethical".
Philosophical practice is not necessarily in opposition to Psychology or to psychologists; rather, it answers a need in our society created by the weakening of established religion. This role has been taken over by psychologists for various social and historical reasons, partly also because philosophy has willingly relinquished it in the last century. Philosophy should be attentive to the social turmoil of our times and be of some service, providing alternatives for established religions for those who want it, while liberating psychotherapists from the uneasy situation in which they find themselves. In order to realize that psychotherapists do indeed fulfill a role for which they are not properly trained, I suggest to begin by probing the views of morality expounded in the main psychological theories.
I.Psychological Theories and Morality
I probe the views of morality expounded by the main psychological theories in order to expose their insufficiency. I have chosen psychoanalysis, both Freud's and his followers', Jungian analytic theory, existentialist and humanistic psychologies and finally, developmental psychologies.
A.Freud and his followers
In order to understand the psychoanalytic tradition's view of morality, we should explain first the shift from morality to psychology, which occurred in the twentieth-century. The psychological model, that is, mental health and mental sickness, has replaced the moral model, that is, virtues and vices. Traditionally, it was held that morality picks up where mental health leaves off, i.e., that considerations of virtue and vice arise when a certain minimum level of functional capacity has been achieved. Beyond that point the dominant mode of evaluation was virtues and mental health dropped out of the picture. The turning point was regarded as the point at which the level of functional capacity achieved allowed for free choice. However, in the last century a shift has occurred, whose result is that mental health has replaced moral virtue as a criterion for evaluating behavior (Pestana,1998).
The psychoanalytic tradition, however, has gone even further (Rieff,1959, pp.329-45). Followers of Freud have developed a critique of morality and moral notions, as themselves indicative of pathology (e.g.,Gilligan,1976). From this standpoint, the very use of notions such as obligation, wickedness, honor, etc., and the presence of moral emotions such as guilt, shame, etc., indicate a fixation at an infantile stage of development. This follows from Freud's view, according to which the conscience is no more than the super-ego (Freud,SE,vol.xxi,p.123). Morality is an "internalized other", to use J.Church's apt phrasing (1991,p.209). Thus, using the vocabulary of mental health instead of than moral theory, not only does wickedness becomes malfunctioning, the very use of the notion indicates malfunctioning.
In a sense, there can be no response to this charge, for, according to such a critique, any adherence to the conceptions of morality is, to a degree, mere pathology. It would appear to be possible to accept this psychoanalytic critique of morality in part without thereby rejecting moral notions altogether: the applicability of moral notions would be legitimate only to people in states of health. Even if we restrict moral discourse to that state, however, there seem to be a more pervasive problem with Freud's conception of morality. M.Cavell, for example, has persuasively argued that, "while the super-ego may explain various neurotic forms of self-punishment, precisely what it doesn't explain, or even make room for, is the moral point of view, which demands just what Freud's reduction of all interests to self-interest won't allow: valuing something because one holds it to be valuable in itself" (1993,p.217).
C.Jung, who departed from the psychoanalytic society, opposed the restrictive view that reduces the moral realm to pathology. As he seems to be sensitive to the moral dimension of human life, I suggest to probe his view of morality.
Jung provides a remarkably undogmatic general overview of the kinds of transformation which can be effected by the psychoanalytic process - an account which does not require exclusive allegiance to any one of the motivational theories which various rival psychoanalytic schools have (often implausibly) presented at the unique key to the human psyche. In a relatively early paper, "Problems of Modern Psychotherapy" (1933), Jung tentatively divides the psychoanalytic process of self-discovery into four broad stages.
The first stage is an acknowledgement of precisely the fallibility, vulnerability and dependence that is an integral part of the strange openness we experience in our emotional lives and a source of the power which the relevant passions can exert over us. It is only by giving up, in the first instance, our pretensions to rational control that we open the way for a deeper, transformed, self-understanding.
The second stage of transformational analysis is often discussed by Jung with reference to the Freudian notion of transference - the return by the patient to that childish state of dependence, where the role of the analyst becomes inextricably bound up with memories and fantasies which the patient has about his father or mother. Essentially, what is involved is not so much the transference process itself, but what it leads to - an understanding that feelings of anxiety, vulnerability and dependence are an inescapable part of human psycho-sexuality. Plumbing the depths of our vulnerability, accepting that even as adults our relationships bear the stamp of earlier needs (sometimes frustrated, sometimes reciprocated in the wrong way, always involving the abject dependence of the child) - this, as Jung describes it, is "the most effective antidote imaginable to all idealistic illusions abut the nature of man". To acknowledge the shortcomings of the human condition (shortcomings from the perspective of an ideal of pure rational control) need not lead to self-abasement or despair; rather the way is open to an understanding that what gives sexuality its power over us is intimately bound up with our status, not as pure angelic soul, but as creatures of flesh and blood, dependent beings raised and nurtured by other dependent beings. This is the beginning of true morality, a morality which is free from sentimentality and illusion (the sentimentality of overblown "romantic" love, the illusion of rational control), and which is founded on a sense of acceptance - what Jung calls "adaptation and patience with our own shortcomings." (1933,p.49)
The second stage thus leads on to the third, the process of moral reconstruction, which Jung (here writing in his most undogmatic and eclectic mode) now describes in Adlerian terms. In essence, this stage involves an appeal to the patient's desire to resume control over his moral destiny, a drive towards "normalization and health" which represents "the most desirable goals and the most suitable fulfillment for a human being". Jung adopts an Aristotelian model of carefully developed habits of feelings and action. At this stage, there is a kind of convergence between the aims of psychoanalysis, as interpreted by Jung, and those of traditional Aristotelian-style ethics. A contemporary sympathetic philosopher comments that: "so far from being, as it is sometimes portrayed, an unending revisiting of the painful traumas of the past, the process of "transformational" analysis aims to move forward to a phase of healing and growth" (Cottingham,1998,p.49).
It is only, however, in the fourth stage of the process as described by Jung, that the full implications of the concept of "transformation" becomes apparent; indeed, Jung sometimes reserves the label "transformation" for this last phase (1933,p.54). He introduces his account of this stage with some manifestly Nietzsche-inspired reflection on the perils of "normality". The notion of restricting our potentialities to some presumed typical or average pattern is anathema to those whose gifts and inclinations lead them to aspire above the ordinary. The fourth and "final" stage of the transformational process can never represent some ultimate phase where the human psyche has "arrived" at an equilibrium state. Rather than grasping an ultimate result, the last word delivered from on high, the human mind struggles upwards by a constant process or reaction and counter-reaction: each insight brings about a change, and that change generates a new perspective from which we struggle to achieve yet further insights, and so the process goes on. The very division between patient and doctor, between "learner" and expert", is ended away. The doctor cannot hope to "instruct" or "convince" the patient if he remains a detached, authoritarian figure. The process of transformation is not the imposition of an externally devised "cure", but rather the realization of a dynamic, two-way process (Jung,1933,pp.61-2).
The psychoanalytic method extends beyond the consulting room and reaches the wider territory of philosophical ethics - impinging on the task, which all of us face, of discovering how to live in the way that is truest to our human nature. Psychoanalysis, in the Jungian vision, becomes available not just to the sick but to the healthy as well, "or at least to those who have a right to psychic health, and whose illness is at most the suffering that tortures us all"(1933,p.62). The resulting conception of ethics will have to operate in a way that gives up many of the traditional assumptions about the straightforward authority of reason in determining the good life.(1) But for all that, its continuity with the traditional ethical project is shown by the fact that it offers a way of pursuing the ancient question, "How should I live?", in a manner consistent with the equally ancient injunction "Know Thyself".
Clearly there is nothing reductive in Jung's treatment of morality and he seems to be more a philosophical counselor who has successfully blended psychological and philosophical tools than a psychologist. When examining more closely the amalgam of psychology and morality he created, however, the problem with his moral views seems to be the arbitrariness of the choice of ethical theories, Aristotle's and Nietzsche's in this case. While a philosopher is able to present various normative theories of morality with their pros and cons, the Jungian psychoanalyst is committed for no good reasons to a non-pluralistic view of morality.
I suggest to turn now to existentialist psychology, for allied with "humanistic" movements, it was supposed to provide an alternative to Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis. Moreover, it emphasizes values, as it was supposed to provide also an alternative to empirical approaches. Values being an integral part of moral discussions, existentialist psychology might offer us a moral theory to rely on in psychotherapy.
Existentialist psychology, allied in the sixties with "humanistic" movements, was supposed to provide a "third force" to serve as an alternative to Freudian, Jungian and empirical approaches.(2) Opposing what it perceived to be scientific "mechanism" and "determinism" of standard theories, this movement sought to protect the dignity of humans by insisting on human freedom. Turning away from science, they generally drew their understanding of the self from the "expressivist" ways of thinking that characterized nineteenth-century romanticism. According to the expressivist view, the self contains an inner seed of potential that is capable of self-fulfillment through artistic creativity, communion with nature, and intense relationship with others. The image of self-realization through the expression of one's innermost feelings and capacities seemed to offer an alternative to the "dehumanizing" effects of the naturalistic outlook.
The naturalistic outlook, the common ground for both Freudian and empirical approaches, holds that because humans are a part of nature, we understand them by applying the same canons of explanations used for other parts of nature. We might distinguish three assumptions drawn from naturalism that underlie the conception of humans found in most psychotherapy theories. The first concerns the nature of the self: the self understood as a thing - as a "subject of inwardness" or a self-encapsulated center of action - has been central to most psychotherapy theories.
The second assumption has to do with the nature of agency and the proper conduct of life: with the tremendous success of instrumental reason in achieving technological control over the world, a conception of action as based on means-ends calculations became widely accepted. Through a formalizable procedure, it seems, we can work things over in order to achieve our goals. This capacity for strategic calculation and technical control was quite naturally expanded to include a psychotechnology for self-improvement. With the guidance of experts, we should be able to reengineer our own lives according to a rational blueprint.
The third assumption concerns the nature of human relations. Given what has been called the "ontological individualism" of modernity - the view that human reality is to be understood in terms of self-encapsulated individuals who are only contingently aggregated into social systems - a conflictual model of humans seem inevitable. Relationships are then experienced as temporary alliances entered into in order to secure our mutual benefit (see Amir,2001,2002,2004c). The outcome is a kind of "therapeutic contractualism" that treats marriage, friendships, and love relations as means to individual self-enhancement, that is, as contractual arrangements to be maintained only so long as I "continue to grow" or "still feel good about myself" in the relationship (Bellah & all,1985,pp.128-30). C.Guignon, a philosopher whose expertise is Existentialist ethics, believes that to the extent that the existentialist approaches still bought into the assumptions of ontological individualism, they tended nonetheless to perpetuate to very view of human reality they sought to overcome. (Guignon,1993).
Some examples will show how this problem arises. R.May's writings display a refined moral sensibility and a commitment to making moral concerns central to the understanding of human existence. We can understand who we are, May writes, only through a "search for our values and purposes...Without values there would be only barren despair". The two-tiered view of life, with its distinction of "mere life" and a "higher life", is indispensable to being fully human. Humans just are the beings who make certain values "more important than pleasure and even more important than survival itself" (May,1983,pp.10,17). It is because mainstream theorizing fails to account for the role of values in human life that psychotherapy risks becoming "part of the neurosis of our day rather than part of the cure"(p.87).
Yet May is less convincing when it comes to formulating his own positive account of moral values. The only ideal he seems to endorse is commitment, that is, a decisive attitude towards existence, "the attitude of...the self-aware being taking his own existence seriously" (1983, pp.166-7). Indeed, commitment to values is necessary if one "is to attain integration", for values are needed to serve "as a psychological center, a kind of core of integration which draws together [one's] powers as the core of a magnet draws the magnet's lines of force together". Values make possible freedom and maturity, as "the mark of the mature man is that his living is integrated around self-chosen goals"; such a person "plans and works toward business achievement or what not" (May,1953,pp.175-6).
It goes without saying, however, that the question here is precisely this "what not". When values and goals are chosen solely in order to attain integration and maturity, they are being treated as mere means to ends. The result, then, is that values come to be regarded as adventitious, presumably dispensable in favor of other means (perhaps brutality or destructiveness) if those would do the job better. In this respect May's writings display a paradox common to a wide range of psychotherapy theories (See Richardson,1989, pp.303-19). On the one hand, theorists recognize the deep-felt need in the modern world for authoritative values to provide guidance and a sense of purpose to life. On the other hand, the deep distrust of authority in our culture leads them to feel that values can be justified only if they are treated as means to achieving such nonmoral ends as personal satisfaction or fulfillment or "empowerment". When looked at in this way, however, moral discourse is reduced to the very calculative-instrumentalist thinking May rightly sees as so debilitating. Moreover, this conception of values as tools on hand for our use threatens to reinforce the objectifying view of the self May wants to eliminate. For when values are thought of as items on hand for our free choice, we will tend to think of ourselves as dimensionless points of raw will, not attached in advance to anything, who can freely pick and choose among the smorgasbord of values set before us. Thus, though May is right to say that "the degree of an individual's inner strength and integrity will depend on how much he himself believes in the values he lives by" (May,1953,p.176), he seems unable to account for how the autonomous, disengaged chooser of values could ever come to regard any values as genuinely binding in the first place.
M.Boss and L.Biswanger, two theorists profoundly influenced by Heidegger, try to give a richer grasp of our "being-in-the-world" as embracing a wide range of possibilities of self-understanding and self-appraisal. Boss, for example, rejects Freud's notions of "guilt feelings", claiming that it conceals the deeper phenomenon of "existential guilt": "Man's existential guilt consists in his failing to carry out the mandate to fulfill all his possibilities", a failure exacerbated by a tendency to follow "acquired moral concepts," the "foreign and crippling mentality which his education forced upon him". To overcome this form of inauthenticity, Boss envisions the ideal of an "authentic" individual who, "accept[ing] all his life-possibilities", can "appropriate and assemble them to a free, authentic own self no longer caught in the narrowed-down mentality of an anonymous, inauthentic "everybody'" (Boss,1963,pp.271,47). Biswanger, though less critical of the "everybody", agrees with Boss in regarding psychological problems as resulting from an overly constricted "world-design". Problems arise when the individual's Eigenwelt (own world) "is narrowed and constricted to such a degree [that] the self, too, is constricted and prevented from maturing". Thus, the aim of therapy is to help people recover "the freedom of letting "world" occur" (1958,pp.204,194).
Boss is confident that, once genuine freedom is achieved, "mankind's ethics becomes self-evident" and we will be able to "define man's basic morality" (1963,p.271). Behind this confidence, one might suspect, lies the romantic faith that we have something deep within us, a "child within," who is truer, purer, and somehow "better" than the dreary, rigid, duty-bound self imposed on us by our socialization. The belief in this "authentic self" - an idea that has becomes common currency through the writings of such theorists as D.W.Winnicott, A.Miller, and J.Bradshaw - is tremendously appealing. But it is not at all obvious that "carrying out the mandate to fulfill all our possibilities" will help clarify our basic morality or make us better people. One thing Freud taught us is to be suspicious of such ideas as the "noble savage" and the "child within." Today we cannot avoid facing the fact that our "possibilities" include not just love and compassion, but also hostility, selfishness, and aggression. Does the "mandate to fulfill all our possibilities" include these as well? And, if not, what moral map guides us in distinguishing the possibilities we ought to fulfill from these we should not?(3)
Central to Boss and Biswanger is their belief in the one value of modern individualism: freedom understood negatively as freedom from constraints. It may be the case, however, that this ideal of unbounded freedom is self-defeating. For where all things are equally possible, nothing is really binding, and so no choice is superior to any others. Freedom then becomes, in Rieff's classic line, the "absurdity of being freed to choose and then having no choice worth making" (1966,p.93). What these criticisms show is that "third-force" approaches tend to slip back into the very naturalistic assumptions they set out to overcome.(4)
Developmental psychologies seem to imply that healthy psychological development involves moral development. Consider E.Erikson's schema of ego development (5): development of ego capacities entails actual exercise of the capacities since their development is sequentially ordered and the development of one capacity is possible only if some other capacity is first developed (through being exercised). For instance, in order to be able to develop the entering into (good) intimate relations, which capacity can be developed only by the time of young adulthood, it is necessary to actually exercise the capacity for forming a sense of one's identity during adolescence. The same sort of relations obtains between all eight of his developmental stages. If this is correct, perfection in mental health would entail exercising (over the course of one's life) the ego function which was necessary for developing the ego functions of the "next" stage. Nonetheless, as M.Pestana critically notes, once all the stages were successfully completed and all the right functions developed, being of perfected mental health would (at the end stage) still be compatible with an absence of instantiation in activity. Furthermore, the exercise of the relevant functions could occur in the pursuit of a vast range of different types of activity, including distinctively immoral (by any decent person's standards) activities.
He exemplifies his claim with the aging Godfather in the film based on M.Puzzo's novel, who appears to have successfully passed through all of Erikson's stages of ego development. Working backwards, he has achieved integrity (of a sort), worked for the continuation of his family position and for the crown to pass to his son, had a tender and intimate relation with his wife, has developed a strong sense of personal identity, has been industrious, etc. Drawing on this example, Pestana sums up his critique by stating that "Erikson's scheme of ego development only appears to involve moral development because of sampling errors in his selections of examples to illustrate his schema" (Pestana,1998,p.113).
Also Piaget's and Kohlberg's work indicates that a person's capacity to judge personally and socially significant activities undergoes a sequential development: the development of later capacities entails the exercise of previously acquired capacities.(6) This development proceeds from being able to judge the basis of such matters only ego-centrically, through being able to judge from the perspective of one's group, to finally being able to judge on the basis of transgroup principles. Since perfection in mental health would involve the development of these psychological capacities and since only by being exercised can they be developed, it would appear that the development of mental health would not be so different from the development of moral virtue. Pestana's critique is that Kohlberg builds into his final-stage principles too much content. His favored principle is a form of Kantian respect for persons. He apparently simply fails to realize that there could be other such principles for he cites no empirical evidence that only "Kantian" principles are employed by people at the highest stages of development and gives no a priori reason why there could not be not be. The highest stages of moral development in his scheme is that the person is able to judge moral matters on the basis of transgroup principles (instead of on the basis of what one thinks the group demands or on the basis of what one wants for oneself). Yet, this is clearly compatible with an indefinite variety of such principles, some of which would count as distinctively immoral to any decent person. Again, only because of "sampling errors do mental health and moral virtue appear to be co-extensive" (Pestana,1998,p.113).
We may sum up the argument so far thus: in a variety of psychological theories, ranging from Freud's and his followers', Jung's, to existential and development psychologies, the treatment of morality is lacking in depth and width. The attitude to morality is either reductive (Freud), or the choice of moral theories unsubstantiated (Jung), the theories of value are not sufficiently convincing even in psychologies which emphasize values (Existential psychologies), and morality is considered without cogent argument a natural developmental phenomenon (Development psychologies). We can conclude that from a theoretical point of view, psychotherapists are poorly equipped to deal with morality.(7)
II.From Theory to Practice: Morality in Psychotherapy
Yet the demand for guidance and the lack of some other authority that can fulfill this need lead psychotherapists into discussing moral problems. Philosophers do worry about the moral task that therapists undertake. Some because they think that therapists may feel poorly equipped by their training to take on this task (e.g.,Guignon,1993), some because they believe that they step beyond their proper domain, that is, the domain of mental health, when doing so (e.g.,Pestana,1998).
C.Guignon notes that to the extent that psychotherapy thinks of itself as an "applied behavioral science", it seems to embody assumptions that cloud any attempt to think of the therapist as a "moral authority". This is so "because scientific endeavor from the outset has aimed at being value-free and objective, basing its finding solely on observation and causal explanation. The result is a deep distrust of authoritarian pronouncement and value judgements" (1993,p.217). Moral issues could be at risk of being dismissed, for "newer approaches [than Freud's] still tend to treat moral concerns either as the personal business of the client or as reducible to whatever principles of procedural justice are currently accepted as "self-evident" in its own academic and professional community" (p.218). The result is that "many therapists and mental health professionals continue to feel that the mainstream "scientific" theories designed to explain and guide psychotherapy fail to capture much of what actually goes on in the practice of therapy. One way to describe this gap between theory and practice is to say that standard theories fail to make sense of the rich and complex forms of moral discourse that characterize therapeutic discourse" (p.216).
M.Pestana does not seem to disagree with this description of what goes on in the practice of therapy; he strongly objects, however, to psychotherapists stepping into moral discourse: "Psychotherapists in general often do pass moral judgment of their clients and encourage the pursuit of certain ends to the exclusion of others...Insofar as any practitioner of mental health does anything more than eliminate malfunction or enhance function he steps beyond the domain of health" (1998,p. 114). Granted that therapists are expert in mental health, therapists might have the right to engage in moral questions if mental health and morality were identical. Pestana argues that they are not, for perfection in mental health is compatible with perfection in evil (1998,chaps.4,6).
The need for moral guidance is all the more pressing given the kind of problems therapists are asked to treat today. M.Eagle points out that people currently seeking professional help suffer less often from the classical neuroses Freudian theory was designed to treat and more often from problems of self "experienced as feelings of meaninglessness, feelings of emptiness, pervasive depression, lack of sustaining interests, goals, ideals and values, and feelings of unrelatedness." Often quite successful in their careers, these individuals feel purposeless, adrift, and deeply dissatisfied with life. Although the immediate cause of such "self disorders" may be parenting, Eagle suggests that they ultimately spring from such social factors as "the lack of stable ideologies and values...or an atmosphere of disillusionment and cynicism in the surrounding society". These disorders of the self reveal more than ever "the importance of goals and guiding values as both a reflection of and a maintainer of psychic health" (1984,pp.72-3).
A most striking feature of the calculative-instrumentalist approach which pervades all psychotherapies, including existentialist ones, however, is its inability to reflect on the question of which ends are truly worth pursuing. Older views of life generally made a distinction between "mere living" or just functioning and satisfying needs, and a "higher" or "better" form of existence that we could achieve if we realized our proper aim in life. In contrast, the modern naturalistic outlook tries to free itself from such a two-tiered view of life. The aims of living are now thought of either as the satisfaction of those basic needs dictated by our biosocial makeup or as matters of personal preference. Psychotherapy, seen as a technique designed to help people attain their ends, remains indifferent to the ends themselves so long as they are realistic and consistent.
Discussion of ends falls within the proper domain of philosophy. Psychotherapists find themselves engaged in moral discussions without an appropriate theoretical background. This situation cannot be easy on the psychotherapist, nor beneficial for the client. We might be able to amend this situation by probing the reasons that led to it.
III.Psychology and Morality: Historical and Social Factors
We can see why moral discourse seems essential to therapy if we reflect on the events that created the need for psychotherapy in the first place. I.Progoff describes how the rise of modern technological civilization first generated contemporary psychological problems: "with no recourse to the spiritual past shared with others in pre-industrial societies, when individuals experienced the meaning of their lives in terms of local religious orthodoxies and accustomed national or tribal ways of life, the individual was isolated and cut adrift, and it is this situation of the lone individual no longer sustained by cultural resources of his ancestors that is the main root of the psychological problems that have arisen in modern times" (1956,p.5).
Mentioned above (partI,A) but worth restating, M.Pestana's view is that mental health has replaced moral virtue in the last century as a criterion for evaluating behavior.(8) Deploring this shift, he finds four specific determinants for the eclipse of virtue by mental health; while two are abstract and conceptual, two are practical and social. First, the notion of mental health is compatible with the general rejection, in philosophy and in science, of radical voluntarism and freedom of the will. Virtue presupposes some such freedom. Second, and related to this, the notion of mental health explains "away" the notion of radical evil. The third determinant is that the concept of mental health allows for a more comfortable conception of the self. The final determinant is of a social nature: the notion of mental health is more compatible with liberal conceptions of the self and society (1998,p.115).
The view that moral virtue is analogous to health or is the health of the mind is, undoubtedly, rather old. Plato argues in the Republic that virtue is the health of the soul (bookIV), rendering thus the notions co-extensive. For Plato, virtue involves an ordering of the soul by reason and the health of the body involves an ordering of its parts. Thus the equation, virtue is the health of the soul, though the primary application of the concept of health was to the body.(9) N.Weiner, however, has recently argued for an identity of virtue and mental health (1993). According to Pestana, his argument fails because of his misunderstanding of the role of the will in moral virtue (1998,pp.34-38).
Though the actual practice of virtue and the expression in conduct of mental health are not so clearly distinct from one another, the differences between the two are most starkly revealed in the abstract. Mental health cannot simply take the place of virtue when it comes to characterizing the maximum development of the individual. Recently, A.MacIntyre has called for a revival or reexamination of the human telos or the good of a human life as a whole (1981,pp.239-42). Health has always been regarded as good, though not of course as the human good. It might be thought that mental health is at least an element of the human telos since it concerns the state of a person's mind and our mind is usually regarded as what makes us distinctively human. Pestana argues, however, that MacIntyre's "analysis of mental health reveals that, first, mental health is unrelated to the human good (and actually does not function even as a constituent of that good), and that second, specification of the human good is not necessary for adequately characterizing mental health and perfection in mental flourishing" (1998,p.7).
Until quite recently, within the disciple of modern moral philosophy (which has as its object of study, evaluative concepts) there has been a neglect of the notion of virtue (Amir,2005a;2005b). In addition, within the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry such concepts have received no attention. This is quite unfortunate because pre-twentieth century psychologies made essential use of virtue concepts and their contemporary neglect severs the historical lineage of the systematic study of the human being. This interrelatedness of psychological and moral theory can be found in Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, etc. The exclusion of moral concepts from the creation of psychological theory in the twentieth century is also unfortunate because psychology is (now) defined as the science of behavior, the need to evaluate behavior remains pressing and virtue and vice were potent concepts for evaluating conduct. Since the need for evaluation remained and since virtue and vice were no longer available, some notion had to be created in psychology to fulfill this requirement. The new concept was that of mental health. The readiness to conceive even slightly "negative" behaviors as due to psychological dysfunction (or especially as addictions) has led one contemporary thinker to refer to this current trend as the "diseasing of America". To a great extent this is also happening with respect to conduct which was once regarded as indicative of virtue: it is now regarded as "well adjusted" or "adaptive", notions taken from the new domain of mental health. In a more practical vein, the neglect of virtue is also evident within psychotherapy. Techniques for developing mental health have been developed and practiced in disregard of the older evaluative notions.
Not only the concept of virtue was missing from moral theory until quite recently, so were the concept of value, of human fulfillment and in general any ethics grounded in an overall conception of reality, or a Weltbild (Craig,1987,chap.1). For want of a better term, J.Cottingham uses the label "synoptic ethics" to characterize the underlying grand conception of philosophy's role with respect to human fulfillment (1998, p.9). This conception of ethics flourished in Ancient and Hellenistic times, as well as in the 17th century; though its echoes never completely died away, the evolving shape of philosophy from the 17th century down to our time has made some of its aspirations seem highly problematic. In a section from the first chapter entitled "twentieth-century ethics and the professional retreat", Cottingham gives a compelling description of how philosophy's aspirations changed in his book, in. He mentions as factors in this process the movement away from a teleological or goal-directed conception of the natural world towards a more impersonal and mechanistic physics, and the Darwinian revolution of the nineteenth century, which emphasizes random mutation and the blind forces of natural selection. By the turn of the 20th century, it started to be possible to discern a steady retreat from the traditional aspirations of "synoptic" philosophy to provide firm guidance on how human beings could find fulfillment. In the first place, with the explosive growth of scientific knowledge, the very idea of philosophy as a fully unified system of knowledge began to seem hopelessly ambitious. And in the second place, philosophers themselves started to adapt their own subject to the new institutional models, and increasingly came to present themselves not as generalists but as specialists, defending their professional patch. In the new academicized subject, there was no room for overarching visions of the good life.
A deeper reason for the "professional retreat" from synoptic ethics may have been linked to a certain cautiousness about the whole enterprise of moral philosophy as traditionally conceived - a cautiousness which was a fairly pervasive feature of the philosophical outlook during the rise of twentieth-century "analytic modernism" (the phrase is Skorupski's,1993,chap.4). The special expertise of the philosopher could carve out a professionally respected role when it came to carefully sifting the nuances of linguistic usage, but to pronounce on the meaning of life, or the route to human fulfillment, was seen as an imprudent voyage outside the harbor of safe professionalism. Yet Philosophy's self-conception is inevitably revised with each new generation. In the latter decades of the 20th century the pendulum appears to have swung back to a richer and more ambitions conception of philosophical ethics: in the words of a recent commentator, philosophers began to be "freed from an overly restrictive conception of their task" and to refocus their attention "on the fundamental questions about how to live that have always given the subject its significant appeal" (Scheffler,1996; cf.Marinoff, 2002,chap.3).
As a result of the changes described by Progroff, Pestana and Cottingham, however, therapists are now asked to serve as moral authorities, filling the vacuum left by the loss of older sources of guidance. C.M.Lowe observes that since "the theological priesthood has lost much of its authority...the scientist practicing counseling and psychotherapy assume a new moral authority. He is asked to make moral pronouncements in the name of science in the way the clergy was called upon for religious directives" (1969,pp.16-17). Because of this demand placed on therapists, a central part of what goes on in helping people in the modern world consists in addressing questions about what constitutes the good life and how we can be at home in the world. These are clearly moral questions in the broad sense, where "morality" includes not just questions about right actions, but "questions about how I am going to live my life" - questions "which touch on the issue of what kind of life is worth living...or of what constitutes a rich, meaningful life - as against one concerned with secondary matters or trivia" (Taylor,1989,p.14).
As the first part of the paper sought to demonstrate, therapists are ill-equipped for this task: the theories of morality which are at their disposal are lacking in depth and width. These theories are reductive, chosen arbitrarily, insufficient when values and ends are involved, and endorsing a view, which is deficient in argument, of a natural moral development. As we have seen in the second part, within the practice of psychotherapy therapists are nonetheless constantly pressured into discussing moral problems; it seems, then, that the practice of psychotherapy makes use of moral discussions. One consequence of this situation is that there is a gap between the theories of morality incorporated in psychological theories and the practice of moral counseling in the psychotherapeutic setting. The theory being insufficient, the moral discussions that take place are in most cases unsubstantiated by it. As psychotherapists are trained in psychology, I conclude that they are not trained to engage in the moral discussions that take place in the practice of psychotherapy.
Having examined in the third part the historical and social factors that contributed to this situation, I am led to complementing this conclusion by an additional one, namely, that the role of discussing moral questions should be taken over by philosophical counselors. This latter conclusion can be expanded to include ethical questions as the legitimate philosopher's domain: granted that counselees come to philosophical counseling in order to answer moral, existential and spiritual problems (Howard,2003) or questions (Amir,2003), as existential and spiritual questions pertain to ethics in the wide sense, that is, to the area of philosophy which attempts to answer the question, "how should I live?"; as an investigation of values is required in order to answer this question; and as only philosophers are professionally trained in value inquiry and in ethics in general - spiritual and existential questions pertain to the legitimate domain of philosophical practice in no lesser way than moral questions. Hence, philosophical practitioners are needed today both for questions in the narrow sense of "moral" and in the wider one of "ethical". Furthermore, these questions, which undoubtedly pertain to the philosophers' domain, are of the outmost importance in a society in which the furthering of adults' autonomy is left unattended.
T.Hurka has recently remarked that "a too narrow conception of the moral has impoverished recent moral philosophy and helped limit its influence. Like the great philosophers of the past, reflective people today think there are important questions about how to live one's life, and they want help answering them. They are rightly impatient with an orthodoxy that ignores this concern"(1993,p.5). In accordance with Hurka's view of the legitimate concern of the academic orthodoxy, the role of Philosophical Practice is to bring the renewed interest in Ethics from the academe to the general public.
One consequence of the argument of this paper is that Philosophical Practice is not necessarily in opposition to Psychology or to psychologists; rather, it answers a need in our society created by the weakening of established religion.(10) This role has been taken over by psychologists for various social and historical reasons, partly also because philosophy has willingly relinquished it in the last century. Philosophy should be attentive to the social turmoil of our times and should be of some service, providing alternatives for established religions for those who want it, while liberating psychotherapists from the uneasy situation in which they find themselves.(11)
(1)The scientific status of psychoanalytic theory has received considerable philosophical attention (See Cottingham,1998,n. 4,p.167; chap.4, sec.2; Amir,2005). The ethical implications of psychoanalytic accounts of the human mind have received relatively scant attention, however, though there are some notable exceptions such as the pioneering work of Wollheim,1984,esp.chaps.5-7, and more recently Gardner,1993. See also Dilman,1984. Lacan emphasized psychoanalysis' ethical implications (1986), while Rachjman helped introducing these to the English-speaking world (1991).
(2)The classic works of Existentialist Psychology in English are May & all,1958; Biswanger,1958; Boss,1963. Newer works include May,1983, and Yalom,1980. Additional works are listed in Friedman,1991, part.6 and p.xvii. Saas provides a bibliography on recent works in humanistic psychology (1988, pp.222-71).
(3)For a further criticism of these ethics, see Guignon,1986,pp.73-91.
(4)E.van Deurzen, who is educated both as a psychologist and as a philosopher, contributed especially to the elucidation of the relationship of philosophy with existential psychology; see, i.e., 2002,pp.143-164, 2001,pp.35-41 and 1999,pp.215-236. Other contributions to the difference between philosophy and existential psychotherapy include Lahav,1997; du Plock,1999; Gallego,2003.
(5)For a succinct statement of Erikson's view, see 1978,pp.1-31.
(6)Many of Kohlberg's works are now collected in the three volumes of 1981. I have used his "Development of Moral Character and Moral Ideology" (1964,pp.383-431).
(7)Various counselors dealt with the subject of Philosophy versus Psychology, inter alia, Schuster,1999,chap.3. She argues for a "sincere communication in philosophical practice, based on a free, spontaneous developing conversation for which no method can exist" (p.96). She repeats this point in characterizing philosophical counseling as "beyond-method method" in 2001; for further references to Schuster's work, see the bibliography at the beginning of her book. The Psychoanalyst Blass contributed, inter alia, two articles (1996a,1996b). The Psychotherapist Mace contributed an introduction and the final chapter to the book he edited (1999). Other contributions on the relationship of philosophical counseling and psychology by practical philosophers include Boele,1999; Raabe,2001,chap.3;2003; Warren,2001; Amir,2004d (forthcoming); Curiel,2003; Rastrojo,2004,pp.53-56,168-172; Marinoff,2002,pp.326-336. I apologize for leaving out many important contributions to this topic, for lack of space.
(8)For determinants of mental health, see Jahoda,1980. See also the review article by Peters,1964 and Coan,1977,esp.chap.10. Coan's taxonomy is quite similar to Jahoda's. See also Jourard and Landsman,1980.
(9)For an excellent discussion of this see Kenny,1973.
(10)For two examples of philosophies that offer alternatives to established religions, see my monograph on Spinoza and Nietzsche. For the ways in which some philosophers, as a result of the weakening of established religion, molded their philosophies on a tragic view of life and a perception of the universe as irrational, see L.B.Amir, Homo Risibile: Philosophy, Humor and the Human Condition, (forthcoming).
(11)For the role the philosopher can play in ethical dilemmas, see the work of L.Marinoff, from 1995 onwards. For a critique of the tenability of the differentiation between values as the philosophical domain and health as the psychological one, see Martin,2000.
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