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Wilson, M. (2012). The Flourishing Analyst, Responsibility, and Psychoanalytic Ethics: Commentary on Kirshner. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 60(6):1251-1258.

(2012). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 60(6):1251-1258

The Flourishing Analyst, Responsibility, and Psychoanalytic Ethics: Commentary on Kirshner Related Papers

Mitchell Wilson

It is an indication of this that good fortune is thought to be the same as happiness or close to it, and happiness is a kind of rational activity: it is activity going well.

—Aristotle, Physics (in Ackrill 1987, p. 104)

Let's try to imagine, in full Aristotelian spirit, the flourishing psychoanalyst. This is that psychoanalyst who is most excellently fulfilling his function as an analyst. Excellent (i.e., virtuous) analytic functioning is due to the analyst's rational activity. Notice that flourishing is not a state; it is an activity “going well.” We would be justified in saying that the flourishing, excellently functioning analyst is a happy analyst. Good fortune, by which Aristotle means “chance” or “luck,” may also be part of the flourishing analyst's happiness.

These adjectives—flourishing and the like—in the context of the conditions under which the psychoanalyst actually practices, ring utterly false. After all, Freud put “happiness” in its place long ago by renaming it “common unhappiness.” And Lacan, as Lewis Kirshner points out in his searching and complex paper on Lacan's Seminar VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, called the analyst's desire to assist patients in finding happiness a desire for “the impossible” and a “fraud.” In the conventional and conscious senses of flourishing, excellence, and happiness—words that imply a self-sufficient subject—no working psychoanalyst could disagree with Freud and Lacan.


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