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Emphatic Relationship between Knower and Known

January 29, 2011


1939 Heinz Kohut (1913-1981) was forced to emigrate from Vienna to Chicago when the Nazis took power. He was trained as a medical doctor in Austria but became known as Mr. Psychoanalysis in America where he played a central role in the twentieth-century psychoanalytic movement (Strozier 2001).

1966 Academics challenged the scientific establishment’s faith in objective science creating a schism among academics. Abraham H. Maslow contributed to the debate in his influential book entitled The Psychology of Science: a Renaissance (1966). In it he argued that by integrating experience (practice) and abstraction (theory), he wished to enlarge not destroy science.  However, Maslow rejected the concept of a neutral observer removed from reality and experience. Rifkin described how Maslow following Goethe and Kohut argued for more sensitive observers capable of incorporating more of the world into the self. These emphatic observers identify with “wider and more inclusive circles of living and nonliving things (Maslow 1966).” Maslow used AA as an argument for the legitimacy of knowledge claims from experience versus theory. Rifkin (2009:610) referred to Maslow’s “receptive strategy” of knowing in section entitled “Teaching Emphatic Science” in the chapter entitled “Biosphere Consciousness in a Climax Economy” in The Emphatic Civilization (2009). He cited Maslow:

“Can all the sciences, all knowledge be conceptualized as a resultant of loving and caring interrelationship between knower and known? What would be the advantages to us of setting this epistemology alongside the one that now reigns in “objective science”? Can we simultaneosly use both?” (Maslow 1966).

1970s The Chicago Institute had a lively intellectual atmosphere was polarized into two factions those who supported Freudian traditional psychoanalysis with its emphasis on drives (instinctual motivations of sex and aggression), internal conflicts, and fantasies and individual guilt and those who accepted Kohut’s empathic approach which embraced the post WWII zeitgeist with is emphasis on how issues of identity, meaning, ideals, and self-expression impact on emotional needs and concerns (Strozier 2001).

1978 The first self psychology conference was held in Chicago. Kohut replaced Freud’s structural theory of the id, ego, and superego with his own concept of the tripartite self (Flanagan 1996), self psychology with its emphasis on relationships. One’s “self states,” including one’s sense of worth and well-being, are met in relationships with others.

1980 A major conference on history and psychoanalysis was organized by Arnold Goldberg and Heinz Kohut.

Webliography and Bibliography

Rifkin, Jeremy. 2009. The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World of Crisis. New York: Jeremy T. Tarcher.

Strozier, Charles B. 2001 “Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst.” New York:Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  See also this critical review of Strozier’s biography.

Flanagan, L.M. 1996. “The theory of self psychology”. In (Eds.) Berzoff, J., Flanagan, L.M., & Hertz, P. Inside out and outside in, New Jersey:Jason Aronson Inc.)

Maslow, Abraham H. 1966. The Psychology of Science: a Renaissance. South Bend: Gateway Editions, Ltd.  McIsaac, David S. 1997. “Empathy Reconsidered: New Directions in Psychotherapy. Washington: American Psychological Association. (McIsaac 1997:248 cited in Rifkin EC 2009) ftn 19

Kohut, Heinz. 1978. The Psychoanalyst in the Community of Scholars.” In Paul H. Ornstein Ed. The Search for the Self: Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut: 1950-1978. Vol. a. New York: International University Press. (Kohut 1978:702 cited in Rifkin EC 2009) ftn 20

Ornstein, Paul H.  Ed. The Search for the Self: Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut: 1950-1978. Vol. a. New York: International University Press. (Kohut 1978:82 cited in Rifkin EC 2009) ftn 21

Paul H. Ornstein Ed. The Search for the Self: Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut: 1950-1978. Vol. a. New York: International University Press. (Kohut 1978:714 cited in Rifkin EC 2009) ftn 22

Ornstein, Paul H.  Ed. The Search for the Self: Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut: 1950-1978. Vol. 1. New York: International University Press. (Kohut 1978:529 cited in Rifkin EC 2009) ftn 23

Ornstein, Paul H.  Ed. The Search for the Self: Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut: 1950-1978. Vol. 1. New York: International University Press. (Kohut 1978:707 cited in Rifkin EC 2009) ftn 24

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