Emmanuel Levinas and the practice of psychology
Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.
Psychology as a human science is rendered desperate by the human vacuum in its own contents. This paper argues that by adopting the methods and techniques of the natural sciences, psychology and psychotherapy not only transform the patient or client into an a-historical and a-social entity, but also propose an utopian view of reality and lose the inherent moral character of the psychotherapeutic endeavour. It seems as if the Post-Modern theoretical and psychotherapeutic alternatives do not offer a solution that solves the above mentioned problems. This paper aims to introduce the work of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, as a stimulus providing a different starting point in the search for solutions to the mentioned problems. Such an approach seeks to understand the radically ethical character of the therapeutic meeting by recognising the fundamental responsibility of the therapist, not to “totalise” (that is to reduce) otherness (the not me) into sameness (the for me) by assigning differences into pre-established characteristics, properties and categories. Only by recognising the otherness of the client in the “face-to-face meeting” and reacting to the call of the other can psychotherapy be ethical and render justice to historical and social situatedness of the other facing us in therapy. Some of the implications that the ethical challenge of Levinas holds for psychology will be explored. This includes the implications for the therapeutic meeting, psychological ethics, and the possibility of a “Levinasanian psychology”.