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Young-Eisendrath, P. (1993). Samuels, A. (London). ‘Person and psyche’. Harvest, 38, 1992, pp. 85-94.. J. Anal. Psychol., 38(3):360-362.

(1993). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 38(3):360-362

Samuels, A. (London). ‘Person and psyche’. Harvest, 38, 1992, pp. 85-94.

Review by:
Polly Young-Eisendrath

In this ambitious paper on two contrasting strains of contemporary depth psychology, Andrew Samuels puts his ideas in the framework of his ‘continuing attempt to work out a credible treatment of politics - understanding that term very broadly - from a depth psychological perspective’ (p. 85). Samuels chooses a dialectical format (that he describes as the method of pluralism) to set up the antithesis of person-as-contingent (related to relativism and social constructivism, as Samuels sees them) and psyche-as-source (related to essentialism and realism, the ‘really real’ that lies beyond our construction).

Out of this antithesis, in purposefully exploring the ‘equal truth and separate existence’ (p. 87) of the two positions, Samuels creates a new synthesis of psyche-as-contingent and person-as-source. He wants us to see the synthesis as a new take on the polarities of contemporary arguments about essentialism. The argument for essentialism in psychology begins with the premise that something (psyche, soul, biology, nature, for instance) is perceptible to us but lies beyond our ability to grasp it. Often the essence is imagined to be in a ‘deeper’ or impenetrable layer of our experience. This essence may link to the material or the ideal, but it (by its nature) is not a human construction: it is discovered, not invented. The argument for anti-essentialism in psychology begins with the premise that all human experience, even perception, is actively constructed by people.

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