Sunday, April 17, 2005

Analytic Philosophy Meets Freud

As I said I was in Toronto this weekend for a conference and happened to see Jonathan Lear give a talk at the Plato and the Divided Soul conference. It's wonderful to see the techniques of analytic philosophy applied to such basic questions as "how we should live?" and "how can mere talk help us be better people?" Lear began by posing the very deep of how a "conversation" can make structural change to the soul. He gave quite a spectacular answer, though there was so much Plato, psychoanalysis and subtle analytic probing involved that I can't quite reconstruct it. The picture I got from him was that both Plato and Freud saw the soul as structured into different parts (i.e. the famous tri-partite soul from Plato and Freud's Ego, Superego, and Id (which Lear charmingly compared to Cookie-Monster). The question is how mere talk can affect serious change to the soul. As I understand it he was really asking the fundamental question of how we as philosophers by our mere "talk" (which this blog is just one example of) can really change the way people think. He compared recieving words to digestion and said the question was how one form of food (i.e. conversation) could change someone's metabolism (i.e. way of taking in conversation). I was told that Lear is a psycho-analyst himself which makes him uniquely qualified to discuss a "talking cure", I guess.

I have to say, though, I'm somewhat skeptical of all this soul-talk. I mean, I've learned my lessons from Fodor and Putnam on reductionism about the mental (i.e. that it's bad). But still, I can't help thinking that these divided souls/minds of Plato and Freud with their automous parts battling it out is going a bit far...

Sylvia (mentioned here), and I are having dinner again tomorrow, and she told me that I must tell her all about the problem of free will... If anybody has on any advice on the best way to approach topic in an engaging way with a bright philosophical novice, I'm all ears.


Anonymous Katherine said...

Really, honestly, who put the "analytic" in "psychoanalytic" anyway? No matter how precise we try to be in our language in philosophy, it's useless because everyone else seems almost not to be speaking English at all. Sorry to rant and offer not much constructive, but it just frustrates me!

11:27 AM  

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