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Spruiell, V. (1989). Neglected Classics: Twenty-Nine Years after Hartmann's "Psychoanalysis and Moral Values". Psychoanal Q., 58:236-240.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:236-240

Neglected Classics: Twenty-Nine Years after Hartmann's "Psychoanalysis and Moral Values"

Vann Spruiell, M.D.

There is always a conglomerate of reasons to do anything, and not long ago all of them came together to get me to re-read Hartmann's little book. Among the reasons were some that had to do with psychoanalytic education, although there were no immediate teaching needs. Do candidates still read the book? How many institutes require it? What do candidates think about the possible and actual roles psychoanalysis might take in matters of ethics and morals? What goals "ought" analyses have? When I was a beginner, what did Hartmann's book mean to me? Later—did I remember what was in it or just confabulate? What might be seen now but not then, or, if seen, discarded for one reason or another?

Here is the way I remembered the book. It was thorough, it was careful. So reasonable. It drew a distinction between taking a neutral moral stance technically and one's own personal values. It disposed of any grandiose roles for psychoanalysis, e.g., developing a Weltanschauung, or a unique psychoanalytic system of ethics. Unequivocally scientific in stance, it qualified assertions about almost everything else. It was hard to read because of its Germanic use of English. As far as I was concerned, it was ponderous and mercifully short.

Over the years psychoanalytic Germanic locutions have come to exist more or less comfortably side by side with my own literary heritage. To read Hartmann is less a chore now—in any event, the style of the prose is irrelevant. What matters is the thoughtfulness, sophistication, and—I cannot think of other appropriate words—modesty and dignity of thought.

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