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Racker, H. (1966). Ethics and Psycho-Analysis and the Psycho-Analysis of Ethics. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 47:63-80.

(1966). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47:63-80

Ethics and Psycho-Analysis and the Psycho-Analysis of Ethics

Heinrich Racker

My desire to make a contribution to the subject of psycho-analysis and ethics has various sources. The fact is, above all, that the ethical factor—moral feeling, judgement, and decision—plays a very important part in mental life and in its vicissitudes, in health and illness, in man's progression and regression, happiness and unhappiness. This is valid for the individual as well as for human society. I speak of the 'individual' not because I believe that he may be separated from his environment but thinking of the word in its deeper meaning: that man is indivisible, that he constitutes a unity however much he is divided or split-off within himself, and that he cannot be divided from his objects in the external world nor from their internal representatives however much he may separate himself from them. Already in his first analysis of neurotic suffering, Freud discovered in his Studies on Hysteria(1895), that it is the unresolved conflict between moral and social feelings on the one hand, and instinctual desires on the other, which constitutes the cause of mental pain and disease. And at the same time he understood that the cure consists in overcoming this pathological division, in reconciling man's ethical and instinctual parts. Thus began the psycho-analytic study of the ethical instance in human personality. Little by little, through the investigation of diverse psychopathological entities and of normal phenomena, Freud and his disciples discovered various aspects of the genesis and dynamics of pathological and normal morality, in the individual and social development as well as in the ontogenesis and phylogenesis of the human being.

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