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Wallwork, E. (1997). Determinism, Free Will, Compatibilism. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:307-311.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:307-311

Determinism, Free Will, Compatibilism

Ernest Wallwork

November 6, 1996. In his lengthy review of my book, Psychoanalysis and Ethics (Yale University Press), Edwin R. Wallace IV (JAPA 43/4) neglects the duty of a book reviewer to inform readers of the author's central arguments. Starting with brief, extravagant praise for the book as a whole, Wallace proceeds to focus only on trivializing dismissively the argument about determinism that takes up less than two of the book's fourteen chapters. In doing so, he ignores entirely what these two chapters say about the correlative issue of responsibility for disavowed thoughts and motives. The effect of this narrow focus is to highlight, by comparison, Wallace's own previously published views on metaphysical determinism, with which he has long sought to saddle psychoanalysis. By focusing primarily on his own views, which are criticized in my book at pp. 65-67, Wallace distorts the main aim of Psychoanalysis and Ethics, which is to formulate an ethic, consisting of a coherent set of values and principles, compatible with psychoanalytic theory and practice. The determinism/responsibility issue is but one part of this larger project.

Psychoanalysis and Ethics offers (1) a rereading of classical psychoanalytic theory, by viewing it through the lens of philosophical ethics, and (2) a reformulation of contemporary ethical theory in light of psychoanalytic findings. Using philosophical distinctions and clinical material to clarify conceptual and theoretical confusions about the behavioral implications of what Freud says about such key concepts as the pleasure principle, drive, Eros, the ego, and narcissism, the book argues that the conventional view that psychoanalysis is amoral, antiethics, or value-neutral is mistaken. More important, it demonstrates that Freud and his immediate disciples were implicitly committed to a deep ethical theory that continues to inform psychoanalytic theory and practice. This naturalistic ethic is based on a concept of human flourishing that includes genuine regard for others, mutual love, and healthy self-love. Technical usage of such concepts as normal object-love and mature ego functioning is shown to be complexly intertwined with moral values such as happiness, autonomy, respect for persons, truthfulness, fidelity, and concern for the common good.

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