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Esman, A.H. (1965). Insight and Responsibility. Lectures on the Ethical Implications of Psychoanalytic Insight: By Erik H. Erikson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1964. 256 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 34:117-119.
(1965). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 34:117-119
Insight and Responsibility. Lectures on the Ethical Implications of Psychoanalytic Insight: By Erik H. Erikson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1964. 256 pp.
Review by: Aaron H. Esman
In this, his most recent volume, Professor Erikson offers the collected fruits of his thought as delivered in a series of lectures over the past eight years. Addressed to a variety of audiences, and previously published in a variety of professional and academic journals, they are bound together by a common and continuing concern with the ethical implications of psychoanalytic insights.
It is not entirely clear to what audience this book is directed. Most of the lectures were prepared for and originally presented to non-analysts—German university scholars, interdisciplinary groups of social scientists, Indian students, and the like. One, however, is an expanded version of Erikson's memorable address on Reality and Actuality, presented at a Fall meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and specifically designed for listeners and readers with a high level of analytic sophistication. The marriage of the two classes of subject is a somewhat uneasy one; for the psychoanalyst, and particularly for one familiar with Erikson's ideas, much of the book is repetitious and oversimplified, and becomes wearing on repeated confrontation. Yet, the discussion of the Dora case and the Count Thun dream in the psychoanalytic lecture will surely be obscure and trying for the lay reader (though it may send some analysts scurrying back to their Standard Editions!).
Beyond the reiteration of his basic epigenetic concepts, his preoccupation with the problem of identity formation, and his efforts to enlarge the scope of ego psychology to include consideration of what he calls 'virtues' (by which he refers to certain varieties of 'inherent human strength'), Erikson is here involved with application of psychoanalytic modes of thought and humanistic concern for broad social, historical, and ethical problems.
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