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Sonnemann, U. (1958). The Human Sciences and Spontaneity: Outline of a Revolution. Am. J. Psychoanal., 18(2):138-148.

(1958). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 18(2):138-148

The Human Sciences and Spontaneity: Outline of a Revolution

Ulrich Sonnemann, Ph.D.

IN EUROPE, and in the particular realm of theory with which you are professionally concerned, the ideas I intend to present culminate in the movement known as Existential Analysis. But an attempt to describe and explain Existential Analysis in one lecture and to an audience oriented to still very different ideas, would only invite needless misunderstandings. Among the various psychoanalytic schools no comparable difficulties stand in the way of discussion. However little they may be aware of it, they are united by a common frame of primary concepts, a tacit consensus about fundamentals. Between all these versions of psychoanalysis and the daseinsanalytic school of thought, however, this is not the case. Existential analysis is the antithesis of psychoanalysis. Since you are likely to hear the negating implication of this statement perhaps too onesidedly, it might be useful to emphasize that in the history of ideas all antithetical notions owe their existence to the predecessors they oppose. This holds very strongly for the relation just touched upon; and Ludwig Binswanger, both as a scholar and as a life-long personal friend of Freud, has acknowledged, explicitly and often, the debt which it means.

So, while existential analysis will in many ways be introduced here implicitly, it will not be expounded as a system. As the answer to a question arising in somebody's mind as which every idea must be seen, it can be made understandable only by first understanding the question to which it is an answer. In the case of existentialistic thought applying itself to the science of man, the question, in turn, was not posed just by psychoanalysis but by the whole gamut of nineteenth and early twentieth century scientific doctrines in the social and anthropological fields. Throughout all of them, the conflicts dividing them notwithstanding, man is seen as an object. He is seen as a thing that, in principle at least, can be figured out, explained, measured, taken apart, and rearranged. He is dissectible theoretically and manipulable practically. Moreover, while none of these doctrines, to be sure, succeeds in its attempt at a full, theoretically satisfactory reduction of man to the level of objective processes, there is always partial evidence of human action and behavior available to support them.

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