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Mishier, E.G. (1973). Man, Morality, and Madness: Critical Perspectives on the Work of R. D. Laing. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 2(1):369-393.

(1973). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 2(1):369-393

8 Criticism of Theory

Man, Morality, and Madness: Critical Perspectives on the Work of R. D. Laing

Elliot G. Mishier, Ph.D.

This essay is a record of ambivalence only partially resolved. My differences with Laing are too deep to dismiss or gloss over, and yet I regret that this is so. Laing began as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, but he has come to address himself to much broader issues than are encompassed within the traditional boundaries of those disciplines. There are precedents, of course. Many of the great figures of twentieth-century psychiatry—Freud, Jung, Reich, Sullivan, among others—have tried to extrapolate their understandings gained in clinical work to the human condition, the great problems of man-in-the-world. Each of these writers captured some part of the spirit of their times, and their works in turn came to affect in a significant way how we define and formulate certain deep and pervasive moral and political issues.

In these respects, Laing might be considered the psychiatrist-philosopher of the sixties. There is a resonance between his work and prominent themes of the counterculture—alienation, estrangement, mysticism; antirationality, anti-establishment, antifamily.

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