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Lenoff, L. (2020). Prologue: The Intersection of Psychoanalysis and Humanistic Values. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(4):221-222.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(4):221-222


Prologue: The Intersection of Psychoanalysis and Humanistic Values

Lester Lenoff, JD, LCSW

This issue began in an interchange with Anna Ornstein. Anna had delivered her paper on, “The Relativity of Morality in the Contemporary World” (this issue), but felt skeptical about a “psychoanalytic” journal publishing a “political” paper. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, within its mandate, seeks to provide authors with a forum and readers with access to texts that might otherwise remain unpublished. In this spirit, I chose to pursue an issue of Inquiry that would focus on the dialogue between psychoanalysts, as clinicians and citizens, and humanistic values.

The American Humanist Association proposes a set of “humanistic values.” But for myself, this issue’s authors and, I imagine, its readers, humanistic values, like art and pornography, reside where, “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it.” And the contributors to this issue fulfill that promise. And I trust that their cumulative impact will bring a reader to “know it when I see it” and derive her or his own working definition.

Anna Ornstein draws on her own life experience and application of psychoanalytic concepts to “The Relativity of Morality in the Contemporary World.” Anna addresses current concern about the anti-humanistic character of the political climate in late 2010s America, through the 1950 concept of Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer of “The Authoritarian Personality.” Drawing on her recollections, Anna recalls her own experience from the 1930s of “Germany’s slide into a popular embrace of authoritarianism” (p.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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