Classical Roots of Psychoanalysis: Brief Reflections on Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Ethics

Main Article Content

Samuel T Goldberg, MD DFAPA

Abstract

Both Plato and Aristotle articulated conceptions of the psyche (soul) as complex, composed of discrete functional constituents in reciprocal dynamic relationships, and posited personal virtue (excellence), happiness, and justice, in relationship both with one’s self and with others, as consisting in a best-ordering of the psyche, by which the internal relations among these distinct functions are most harmoniously integrated. Socrates argued that justice in the individual and in the city is the same thing. A clinical case presentation illustrates how psychoanalytic structural theory overlaps considerably with Aristotle’s discussion of the conflictual relationship between the desirous and rational aspects of the psyche, while salutary shifts in the patient’s internal object-relations illustrate a movement toward greater “justice” among the “community” of psychic functions, as described in Plato’s Republic. Although not identical, Socrates’s approach in the Platonic dialogues has much in common with the psychoanalytic method. Both focus on awakening the interlocutor’s self-observation, self-questioning, self-discovery, and psychological mindedness. Both are inherently relational, focusing on the immediacy of the interactions between the two interlocutors, and inducing change through an internalization of the discussion, if not the relationship. Both assume that the knowledge their interlocutor needs to attain is already present within at the start, though not yet uncovered or “recollected”. The scope of the essay stretching from the ancients to the moderns, and from individual psyche to the body politic, our aim is to elaborate the proposition that the internal structures of an individual psyche and a republic are more or less analogous, and to clarify how, though not perfectly achievable, Platonic “justice” and the ideal outcome of a psychoanalysis can be models for one another. Both require the most adaptive compromise between conflicting functional agencies. In the discussion, I will briefly review some writings rejecting classical roots, and others extolling them. Friedrich Nietzsche in particular, criticizing previous philosophers, opened the way for modern psychoanalytic ideas.

Keywords: Psychoanalysis, Classical Roots of Psychoanalysis

Article Details

How to Cite
GOLDBERG, Samuel T. Classical Roots of Psychoanalysis: Brief Reflections on Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Ethics. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 5, may 2024. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <https://esmed.org/MRA/mra/article/view/5416>. Date accessed: 19 june 2024. doi: https://doi.org/10.18103/mra.v12i5.5416.
Section
Review Articles

References

1. Plato. The Dialogues of Plato, Translated by B. Jowett: Apology, 38a 5-6. Random House; 1937.

2. Ibid. Phaedrus, 229-230

3. Aristotle. The Basic Works of Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics. Random House; 1941.

4. Ibid. 1103 a 2-3

5. Ibid. 1104 b 9-35; 1105 a 3-4.

6. Freud, S. Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. The Hogarth Press; 1959

7. Arlow, J and Brenner, C. Psychoanalytic Concepts and the Structural Theory. International Universities Press; 1964

8. Aristotle. The Basic Works of Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics. Random House; 1941. 1097a 15-1097b7

9. Ibid. 1104 b 13

10. Ibid. 1103b 23-25

11. Ibid. 1099a5-6

12. Ibid. 1098b,30-1099a,6

13. Ibid. 1103b 1, 14-15

14. Strauss, L. The City and Man. The University of Chicago Press; 1964

15. Plato. The Dialogues of Plato, Translated by B. Jowett: Phaedrus 275-277. Random House; 1937.

16. Ibid. 275-276

17. Person, E. By Force of Fantasy. Penguin Books; 1995

18. Brenner, C. Psychoanalytic Technique and Psychic Conflict. International Universities Press, Inc; 1976

19. Boesky, D. The Questions and Curiosity of the Psychoanalyst. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 37:579-603; 1989

20. Kernberg, O. Severe Personality Disorders: Psychotherapeutic Strategies. Yale University Press; 1984

21. Kernberg, O. Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. Jason Aronson, Inc. 1975

22. Adler, G and Buie, D. Aloneness and Borderline Psychopathology: The Possible Relevance of Child Development Issues. International Journal of Psychoanalysis ,60:83-96;1979

23. Hopkins, B. Keats' "Negative Capability" and Winnicott's Creative Play. American Imago 41(1): 85-100; 1984

24. Winnicott, D.W. Playing and Reality. Routledge, 2nd Edition. 2005

25. Gray, P. A Brief Didactic Guide to Analysis of the Ego in Conflict. Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis 2:325-340; 1993

26. Gray, P. The Ego and the Analysis of Defense. Jason Aronson, Inc. 1994

27. Plato. The Dialogues of Plato, Translated by B. Jowett: Meno 81-82. Random House; 1937.

28. Ahbel-Rappe, S. Socratic Ignorance and Platonic Knowledge in the Dialogues of Plato. State University of New York Press; 2019

29. Plato. The Dialogues of Plato, Translated by B. Jowett: Apology. 21.5. Random House; 1937.

30. Plato. The Republic of Plato, 342b-c. Translated by Allan Bloom. Basic Books Inc; 1968.

31. Ibid 358b

32. Ibid 358 e

33. Ibid 359c-360d

34. Ibid 435e

35. Ibid 353d

36. Ibid 432a

37. Ibid 441d

38. Ibid 442a-b

39. Ibid, 442c

40. Ibid 443d

41. Ibid 445b

42. Ibid 444b

43. Ibid 445a

44. Ibid 381c

45. Freud, S. New Introductory Lectures to Psychoanalysis. The Hogarth Press; 1959

46. Hanley, C. An Unconscious Irony in Plato's Republic. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 46():116-147; 1977

47. Blinkman, H. Book Review of Mind and Madness in Ancient Greece, by Bennett Simon. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 8(4):636-639; 1980

48. Bloom, A. Commentary on Plato’s Republic. Basic Books.1968

49. Reid, S. The Apology of Socrates. Psychoanalytic Review,62(1):97-106; 1975

50. Nietzsche, F. Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. Vintage Books (a Division of Random House); 1966

51. Ibid, Aphorism 1

52. Ibid, Aphorism 6

53. Ibid, Aphorism 16

54. Ibid, Aphorism 54

55. Ibid, Aphorism 17

56. Lacan, J. Some Reflections on the Ego. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 340:11-17; 1953

57. Lanman, M. “Psychoanalysis and Ethics”: British Psychoanalytic Council Annual Lecture. Couple and Family Psychoanalysis,5(2):230-233; 2015

58. Lear, J. Jonathan Lear on ‘Wisdom Won from Illness: The Psychoanalytic Grasp of Human Being’. PEP/UCL Top Authors Project Video Collection,1(1):26; 2018

59. Lear, J. An Interpretation of Transference. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, (74):739-755; 1993

60. Gallucci, G. Plato and Freud: Statesmen of the Soul. Authorhouse; 2001

61. Cottingham, J. Philosophy and the Good Life: Reason and the Passions in Greek, Cartesian and Psychoanalytic Ethics. Cambridge University Press;1998