Steven Goldman – The Homeric DSM/ A Corrective Historical Experience

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The Homeric DSM / A Corrective Historical Experience
Steven Goldman, Ph.D.

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Introduction

The question I am exploring with you today is how to become one soul. My theme is the soul and I’m focusing on that small part of existential psychoanalysis that concerns not analysis or existence but psyche or soul. I will trace some of the history of the idea of the soul — and of psychological unity — whose trajectory runs from ancient times to the present. The point I am trying to make today is that when we understand the history that precedes existentialism and makes it possible, we are in a stronger position to take charge of our lives — and thus to do some good.

In my remarks today I am claiming that history is too important. We need it to be less important so that we can be free for creative responsiveness to life. The crux of the issue is that history becomes too important when we become trapped in a single, obsessional vision of the past. Thinking historically helps to liberate us from the tyranny of one idea above all others — this helps us get oriented in our thinking about contributions from thinkers like Binswanger, Jaspers, Heidegger, Medard Boss, Rollo May and Irvin Yalom — some of the founders of the therapies we are exploring in this conference — all of them thinkers who envision a new kind of freedom. Freud, working with Sándor Ferenczi and Franz Alexander, envisioned something like a corrective emotional experience — a way of talking about what is therapeutic in analysis. My addition here is on behalf of the same ambition to free ourselves from the past. But I am arguing for a corrective historical experience, to liberate us from the strictures of a narrow and disempowering conception of history — thus a way of talking about what is therapeutic in studying history. I am reaching for a way of reclaiming the past from blank facticity, to serve the cause of creative self-determination.

I am claiming that what we are able to do in thinking runs parallel with what we are able to do in life — we cannot jump ahead of ourselves into the future, but at the same time we have to fight against the inertia of the past. So I’m discussing existential psychoanalysis, which I define in Yalom’s terms as a dynamic approach to therapy which focuses on concerns that a human being faces just by being alive — and my point of view emerges from thinking about the history of philosophy. Jaspers — an important contributor to existential thinking and a physician credited with inaugurating the “biographical method” in psychiatry — i.e., taking extensive background histories and noting how patients themselves feel about their symptoms — held that psychotherapy is not grounded in medicine but in philosophy, which is why it demands to be examined from an ethical point of view. And I am claiming that when we carry this out, and examine psychotherapy from an ethical point of view, we free ourselves from obsessional thinking — we are forced to confront ourselves and the world we live in — this means that we take responsibility for ourselves — whatever may befall us, despite immensities of limitation — in Yalom’s terms “responsibility acceptance is equivalent to a positive sense of life meaning” — which I would call intelligible freedom or more simply the examined life.

(1) the Homeric Background

The history I am following today begins with the soul or psyche. This Greek term, psyche, the basis of English words like psychology, psychiatry, psychic, psycho, is a feminine noun with the sense “breath, life breath, life spirit,” a kind of wind or air or ether in us without which we begin to swoon, faint, and lose consciousness, but which also underlies powers with more restricted senses, such as heart, appetite, mind, sense, understanding, or even the person himself — as separate from everything about him; also the shade, the ghost, the departed soul, as opposed to any physical or outward thing — very like the Hebrew term nefesh, or vital spirit — what in Latin is called anima. In this conception, the body is merely a kind of envelope which, after death, rots and becomes nothing. But the body-severed soul lives on in some nether state — in Hades, in Sheol, in Limbo, an idea that we see in virtually all primitive cultures and which the Structuralists, for example — thinkers like Saussure, Lévi ?Strauss, Roman Jakobson, Jacques Lacan — referred to as an inevitable premise of human reasoning.

We can see this idea at work in the earliest written documents we possess, for example in the first line of Homer’s Iliad, which speaks of Achilles’ anger and the destruction that follows it for his people the Achaians, “which threw down many strong souls (psycha) of heroes into Hades, and gave their bodies to the delicate feasting of dogs, of birds, so that Zeus’ planning was fulfilled, from the day on which Atreus’ son Agamemnon, king of men, and brilliant Achilles, first fell into conflict.”

It occurred to me that we might create a kind of Homeric DSM — a Homeric diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, for categorizing different sorts of disease conditions of the soul — as a precursor basis for understanding how we look at psychological phenomena today. Homer introduces a number of terms for normal psychological functioning, as well as terms for disease conditions of the soul, just as we do, and many of the terms we use for these ideas today, both in everyday language and in medicine, are descendants from Homeric times. Here is a comparative list:

Homer

Psyche — soul
Eros — impulse
Logos — reason
Mania — madness
Hubris — arrogance
Miasma — pollution
Nemesis — wrath
Pthonos — jealousy
Nous — mind
Kradie — heart
Phrenes — wits
Thumos — spirit
Epithumia — desire
Ecstasis — frenzy
Agon — struggle
Moira — fate
Até — blindness

Soma — body
Akrasia — weakness
Aidos — shame
Ataraxia — calm
Autarcheia — independence
Bouletikon — planning
Prohairesis — choice
Enkrateia — self-control
Etor — heart feeling
Ker — heart thinking
Hexis — habit
Katathesis — assent
Hedone — pleasure
Sophrosune — temperance
Sophia — wisdom
Phantasia — imagination
Timé — honor

DSM – V

Neurodevelopmental /
Neurocognitive disorders
Bipolar disorders / cyclothymia
Depressive disorders
Obsession Compulsion
Substance disorders
Schizophrenia, psychosis
Trauma / stressor disorders
Anxiety disorders
Somatic symptoms disorders
Dissociative disorders
Gender dysphoria
Disruptive disorders /
Impulse control disorders
Personality disorders

It is easy to sort out the Greek roots of most of the current DSM vocabulary — e.g. neural, cognitive, cycle, schizoid, phrenetic, somatic, dysphoria, trauma — but the connection here is not simply linguistic. In many cases the modern terms follow a logic exactly parallel to their ancient counterparts. An example is the term até, which means something like ‘bewilderment, infatuation, or reckless impulse,’ and which was sometimes considered a kind of ‘judicial blindness’ sent by the gods. The idea of judicial blindness — of divine workings behind mental phenomena — foreshadows and offers a useful parallel for the contemporary idea of repression — of psychological material that is repressed, that is rendered ‘unconscious,’ and thus not allowed any outlet, which nonetheless escapes these confines in some unsuspected and often embarrassing way as the ‘return of the repressed.’ Até was personified as the goddess of mischief, ruin, disaster, catastrophe or reckless conduct, yet at the same time até was a psychological condition understood as a kind of sickness — a normal attribution from everyday life in the community, and one that was disparaged. States of the soul, especially overwhelming disease conditions of soul, thus appear as personified forces — as Gods — so that a myth recounting epic deeds of Gods is, at the same time, a story about human beings caught in the grip of powerful forces of nature (a condition examined at length in E.R. Dodds’ classic study from 1951 The Greeks and the Irrational).

Terms like mania (madness), hubris (arrogance), miasma (pollution), nemesis (wrath), pthonos (jealousy), point to a kind of fragmented psychology, in which disassociated part-selves assert themselves against what Homer calls nous — mind — just as powerful Gods assert themselves and overwhelm the plans of mere mortals. Psychological wholeness, on this picture, is still inchoate or as yet barely conceivable — not yet fully realizable, in the same sense that human nature is as yet still unthought in its own terms, but instead is laid out against the high-altitude world of the Olympians — a scene perhaps something like these heights just behind us here in Montana.

Let’s get some of the vocabulary on the table and begin to look at some entries in the Homeric DSM. Of course the term psyche is the most basic of these terms. Homer tells us that the psyche leaves the body at death through the mouth or through a wound or by the loss of blood — later in history, pre-Socratic and Hippocratic writers assert that psyche inheres in the body as blood. Each of us has only one psyche and, once the psyche is departed, no return of the psyche is possible. It appears that the psyche is not the self or the personality and in some ways it seems almost devoid of personality. Sometimes the term is translated as life, sometimes as ghost, for example as we see in the Odyssey, when Odysseus visits the shades of his departed family and comrades as they wander the land of the dead (Book IX). Psyche appears to look and sound just like the person who carries it in life. Yet psyche does not appear to have any specific mental or emotional functions — it is more natural to use another word in talking about human powers. If we want to understand the mental and emotional activity of Homeric man, we have to look at terms such as thumos (spirit), kradie (heart), nous (mind), and phrenes (breast, lungs, diaphragm, heart as the seat of thought — the location of our mind or wits or sense — what in Latin is called precordia) — also words like mania to explain unusual states; also hubris, excess or infatuation, typically punished by até, disaster, for psychic diseases — with mixed elements of human responsibility and divine retribution.

The Greek scholar A.W.H. Adkins sums up many generations of work in classical studies when he writes in his definitive study From the Many to the One: “Today we are accustomed to emphasize the I which takes decisions and also expressions such as will and intention. In Homer there is much less emphasis on anything like the I or its decisions. The functions of the self take the foreground and enjoy a remarkable amount of democratic freedom.” Thus men act as heart or spirit or lust bids them. Odysseus for example wonders whether to attack the Cyclops, but another thumos restrains him. Athena asks Telemachus to offer her a gift — whichever one his kradie chooses. Most famously, anger rises up in Achilles in his argument with Agamemnon, and Homer says that Achilles’ shaggy breast was divided two ways, pondering whether to draw his sword and attack, or else check his spleen and keep down his anger — these weigh evenly in his mind and spirit, but Athena suddenly appears behind him and holds him by the back of his hair, saying that mother Hera had sent her to restrain him — and he says, “Goddess, it is necessary that I obey you two, though my heart is full of anger — because I know that if I obey the gods’ commands, then they will listen to me as well” (i, 218).

(2) philosophers discuss the question

There is a passage in the Iliad (xxiii, 698) that four of the great thinkers from ancient times — Anaxagoras, Democritus, Plato and Aristotle — all discuss. This passage draws their attention because of the way Homer describes the psyche — it is a problem-text and invites different interpretations. The setting is the funeral games that Achilles has decided to put on in honor of his dead friend Patroclus. Among these games is a boxing match between Epeius and Euryalus. Epeius overwhelms his opponent and Euryalus is quickly flattened, carried out of the ring and laid out on the floor allophroneonta, ‘wandering in his wits.’ This unusual term — allophroneonta, ‘confused thinking’ — is also sometimes translated as ‘senseless, witless, distraught in one’s thoughts’; in other contexts it means something like ‘thinking of other things,’ or ‘paying no heed,’ or ‘entranced in his own train of thought.’ Thus the term indicates in some cases psychological dysfunction following the onset of some unusual condition — in this case, a blow to the head — but in other cases it reads as an otherworldly cast of mind — a sense of ecstasy or even an out-of-body experience.

Democritus comments on this passage that mind and soul are the same thing and that we are in brief exactly what we think (Fragment 171). Today we would call this a rationalistic kind of mistake, in which we identify the entirety of human psychology with conscious reasoning, thus ignoring the irrational parts of the soul, things about us that we are not aware of, forgotten or unconscious or forbidden thinking that slips out in mysterious ways (see Aristotle’s review of his predecessors in Metaphysics, Book I).

Anaxagoras comments on this passage in remarking that “mind sets the whole in motion” (Fragment 13) — that is, mind is the cause of the world — mind is the basis of phantasia, mental seeing or imagination, i.e. what we see in the sensorium of consciousness; which implies that the world the opens up to us in sensory experience. Today we would call this an idealistic kind of mistake, as implying that the perceptual world is ultimately a human construction, thus a delusion and species of unreality.

Plato and Aristotle attempt to steer around both these mistakes — rationalism and idealism — and by doing so arrive at contradictory, rival and still influential solutions — both launching forward from Presocratic thinking and especially from Socrates’ two key ideas about psyche or soul: first, that we should know it and, secondly, that we should care for it.

Plato often cites Homer in showing that psyche obviously includes different powers, parts or functions. But his arguments always steer towards reconciling difference and creating a harmony from dissonance. In the image from the Phaedrus, psyche is a charioteer reining in her black and white steeds — earthly desire and heavenly spirit. The inexperienced soul is still green and foolish. Becoming enamored of matter, it seeks to unite with it and become a body itself in order that it might drink in bodily pleasures, but matter is recalcitrant and keeps up its game of enticing and withdrawing. As we strengthen the logos, the phrenes, the nous, our epistemic or knowledge-gathering capacities, the soul is roused from its earthly slumber in the body and reminded of its destiny in a higher intelligible world. It remembers its duty to seek the intelligible through study of philosophy, and to the extent that the soul becomes addicted to this study, it will be able to achieve its release and rejoin the intelligible world. Intellectual insight thus appears in parallel to kind of religious purification; and the therapeutic virtue of philosophy is not merely physiological or psychological, but also religious.

Plato divides psychological conditions into curable and incurable (Gorgias 526, Phaedo 113, Republic X, 615). Psychological treatment for curable mental conditions is a form of education. But for incurable souls — including especially tyrants, princes, and political rulers who practice forms of injustice in civic affairs, and who are models for us of human weakness — a kind of epistemological dysfunction is at work, or inability to learn anything from experience — also a self-satisfaction of arrogance that prefers holding power in an illusory state of mind, to powerlessness in a state of lucid consciousness. When Plato uses words like miasma or nemesis or pthonos (pollution, wrath, envy), he also adds comments with his master Socrates’ irony, so that the personifications of these powers — their transfiguration as Gods — always return us to the problem of taking control of ourselves (“The priests at the temple of Zeus at Dodona used to say that the first prophesies came from oak trees. People in those days, lacking the modern wisdom we have today, were content in their simplicity to listen to trees and rocks, provided that they spoke the truth,” Plato, Phaedrus 275b).

Plato’s philosophy proposes that human beings have some power over their actions — likewise he argues that this control is mainly a function of intellectual intuition — that is, on the agent’s glimpsing of the Forms, which again is Plato’s image for an intellectual achievement — and however limited this idea may be, it encapsulates one of the founding insights of existential psychoanalysis — the idea that thought and emotion are bound up together; yet phastasia (imagination) is distinct from katathesis (assent); i.e., what we feel is bound up with judgments we are making, and if we are laboring under some error and making a poor judgment, then in the case that this judgment is exposed and we actually change our mind, then with the change in the content of our judgment, the emotion encrusted around it, and emerging from it, also changes. This important idea informs Stoicism, Theraveda Buddhism and, much more recently, what is now referred to as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

Aristotle’s view of the soul is more complex. A human soul is first of all an animal soul. But the phusis (nature) of the human soul is such that by phusis man is a creature who lives in a polis — man is a political animal — human flourishing exists in and depends on society (Politics, Book 1, 1253a). And I think in a way Aristotle has overcome some of the limitations of a Platonic view of the self, just as Heidegger overcame some of the limitations of the Cartesian view of the self — not the lonely self that glimpses the ideal Forms, not thought as opposed to extension or the agent in us that knows, the “thing that thinks” — but what Heidegger calls being-in-the-world, and what Buber calls the I-Thou experience, or existence as encounter — a sense of ourselves that we get from a social context, that takes form and evolves in interactive relationships. Human being is not accidently a social kind of creature, but everything we are as people who feel, think and act emerges in the rich context of family, school mates, friends, colleagues, lovers, co-workers, and fellow citizens — outward from the primordial society in the family, towards the limit of what the Stoics called “cosmopolitan” — thus a way of belonging to, and taking care of, the world.

If we look at all this work together, we see a portrait of the Greek personality that has not yet developed a firm and stable structure which we would regard as normal. Scholars such as E.R. Dodds, A.W.H. Atkins and Werner Jaeger argue that the failure to develop an egocentric personality in Greece is closely linked with the structure and values of Greek society, which necessarily externalize criteria of action and give no importance at all to intentions, to mere thoughts, rather than the consequences of human actions. This suggests that the achievements of the Athenians in particular — although outstanding — were bought at a very high price. Thus paradoxically it is only with the loss of the polis — the body of citizens — one’s city, country or community — in Latin, civitas — regarded by our Greek ancestors as being the only place in which a good life, or genuine happiness, was possible — it is only when the city is lost that any solution appears to pry society loose from the strictures of a results-culture. That is: the only way people could develop an inner life, a sufficient inwardness to develop something like a moral conscience, was by destroying the warrior-culture competition that gave birth to the polis in the first place.
An important stage in this history is the development in Stoicism and Epicurean philosophy of ideas such as apatheia — indifference or dispassion — and ataraxia –contemplative, lucid tranquility. Thus as the Greek city-state crumbles and is replaced by the Empire — Alexander’s empire and Rome’s Empire and Christianity’s empire — the focus moves from the role one plays in a tribe — a small society — to a new focus on the development of the self in the context of an enormous megalopolis, over which very few people — if even any — have the slightest chance of altering its headlong pace of change. The focus is on oneself — as Epictetus says, “on the things which are in our power” (Discourses 1, 1). The trajectory here is enormously complex. In one sense the movement is from godlike pride to humble strength — from transcendental narcissism to a reality-based ego — from aspiration that swamps all human feeling to an accepting humility more inclined to understand than conquer. In terms of psychological unity, there is movement from psychic chaos to genuine selfhood — from a concrete mindset to psychological insight — from dissociation to integration — from many to one — from the fragmentation of spirit and heart and impulse at war with each other, to one person feeling and thinking different things and trying to sort them out. All these developments run parallel as the deep foundations for a stable kind of personality and an end to the storm and tumult of the Homeric conflict-psyche.

(3) a summing up

Classical scholars observed centuries ago that the ancient Greeks did not possess a concept of the will. Recent writers such as Max Weber, Karl Jaspers and Hannah Arendt argued that the encounter between Greek shame-culture and Judaic guilt-culture brings about the epochal change in the Western psyche that makes it possible for people to think of themselves as having a power of will, as making choices and being the authors of their own lives. Scholars such as Pierre Hadot, Albrecht Dihle and Michael Frede document what Stoicism contributes here — the huge step forward in the ideal of Stoic self-command. Especially in Christianity, and with its intense inwardness and focus on prohairesis, or explicit choice, thus assertively (and even counterfactually) taking a side — we get to a place that (paradoxically) is less the real-world, less the world of facts and positions in society, and is more the dream-world, a world of wishes and hopes for social change. On the wings of imagination like this, we give ourselves a bit of breathing room and space for self-development, to create the interior world of thoughts — the life of the Mind — the complex subjectivity that grants a person what Kierkegaard tells us is an infinite freedom (Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 1846) — the kind of freedom that Camus and Sartre and Unamuno articulated — a tragic freedom, a condemnation to freedom, a dizzying, confusing freedom, what Nietzsche called the heaviest of all weights (The Gay Science, 1882) — an ‘existential freedom’ in which the whole person awakens and begins to make authentic choices — a world where we make ordinary and also outstandingly bad mistakes; a world of ordinary good things and also things that are remarkably good; — that is: choosing to see the world in all its vast complexity, and as it really is.

This is the third insight emerging out of a long stretch of cultural history informing existential psychoanalysis, from three precursor forms in the ancient world: —

1 — the distinction between imagination and assent (phantasia kai katathesis)
2 — the redefinition of man as a political animal (politikon ho anthropos zoon)
3 — the psychology of acceptance in struggle with suffering (ataraxia kai apatheia)

I am arguing that these ancient ideas about the mind, politics and the role accepting plays in developing mindfulness, precede and make possible existential psychoanalysis.

By this teaching, the only person in this world I can control is myself — yet –strangely — I cannot control even my own flow of thoughts — but only where I give my assent. By this teaching I cannot be a self on my own — I get to be an ‘I’ in an enormous context and with an entire world of people — thus I exist in space and also in a web of relationships — I am a physical entity, but I am also inherently political in my nature. And because I am inherently political in my nature — because I am in dispute — I am free — which means: I can practice assent; I can practice politics; I can be whatever I have the strength to see and do — or instead remain a slave, because the political world in which I live is corrupt — or because I am. I am returning to the existential claim that freedom consists minimally in my attitude towards whatever happens to me — in Rollo May’s formula, freedom has to do with transcending the immediate situation — the self is simply “the ability to see oneself in all one’s self-world relationships and possibilities” — not to be rigidly confined to a specific world, or any specific obsession — which Binswanger calls “fighting against the confines of a single world design” — to which he adds what he considers the main point, that we have to see ourselves as in-the-world the way we really are before we can take any step beyond-the-world, and become at home in what he calls the eternity (Ewigkeit) and haven (Heimat) of love. This existence we are living, he says, can be at home, or not, in this place, entirely by the force of our choices — i.e. by the power of will.

The ideas of will and of choosing freedom emerge from the long history that begins with the Homeric DSM and ends with ours — terminating in a concept of transcendence. This is a point of view which takes the world as a point of departure for a flight on which everything depends — which each person must venture on his own, by his own choice, and which can never become the object of any doctrine. Jaspers makes the interesting comment that while medicine pathologizes and tends to undermine individual self-determination, philosophy instructs and tends to support self-definition — yet we have to rely on both. This means that there is an irresolvable tension in human being — we are psyche and soma at once — the psyche is many things, and so is the soma — which means that we can never wholly unify our souls, or ever become one thing.

Thus my inquiry is a failure and I have no formula for achieving psychological unity. And this failure I think is exactly the point of this subject whose history I have been tracing, and for my conclusion I will try to say briefly why I think this is so.

We may feel sometimes that we are too many people at the same time and that there is just too much chaos and confusion inside of us. In other cases the problem is that we are stuck being exactly the same narrow person over and over again. But if we think through both these problems from the standpoint of the history of philosophy — if we trace the history from Homeric times and think through what thinkers like Nietzsche and Yalom have argued — we see that we have to reject the whole issue of unifying the soul and replace it with something else. The real issue isn’t about being one person throughout life, or getting to the point where you don’t feel drawn in different directions. The issue is how to live a good life. Thus I think we have to get away from the teaching about unifying our soul, and stick with the question about the good life.

Pythagoras coined the term ‘philosophy’ and offered the analogy between intellectual curiosity and romantic pursuit. He argues that we cannot know what the good life is but can only seek it. That is: the good for man is to search for the good for man. The focus of our lives is on ethics — but we are pursuing ethics as an inquiry rather than a doctrine. The gain of thinking about philosophy as a form of love is that this makes the case for the uncertainty of philosophic reasoning and offers the perspective that philosophic vision is subject to change. Psychopathology is in brief a refusal to change. The good life — psychological health — is something like the ability to change; it has more to do with accepting. Our Greek ancestors and especially Stoicism define this idea and I think in more recent times Wittgenstein had something like this in mind when he writes that “the solution to the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem” (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6.521) — not that the problem is a pseudo-problem, that it is a false problem, or an unimportant problem or even nonsense — but that eventually you find a way of handling it — eventually you find your self-confidence, your gameness, and you simply immerse yourself in the river of life.

Afterthoughts and objections

I am tracing some of the history that precedes the development of the modern personality. In the same sense in which the therapeutic relation can be viewed as a kind of emotional realignment and “reparenting” process — a way of restarting the human project with fewer deficits and more freedom of action — I am envisioning a kind of historical realignment and “rehistorizing” process — another attempt at overcoming entrapment in a narrow conception of what is possible in human reality. This is the general sequence of argument that emerges from the re-history project:

1. Vocabularies of explanation (Homer and DSM each in various versions) change.

2. We cannot solve our problems, once and for all, without having any more work to do; there is no final vocabulary of explanation; just the latest. Mythologies of passivity come and go, and we may sacrifice our freedom of assent, of political engagement, and struggle in the face of suffering, to any of them, to our detriment.

3. The ancient teaching about unifying the soul is correct, but it is in effect the teaching that asks us to unify Being — e.g. to unify the two worlds, above and below, sacred and profane; and of course this is exactly what we should do. This is a kind of project that we are working on or should be working on. But it is strange to think that we can set out to do this kind of work without having settled on a final meaning and brought the work of unifying our soul to a completion. Despite this we gain experience and reach steadier states of competent/happy being than earlier, less steady states — we get older, we evolve a little bit — we are a little wiser and a little more unified than before — perhaps; in some cases but not in all. It is strange and in a way counterintuitive to think that we can do good work on any project with a divided soul. Work that emerges from a divided soul is a patchwork and does not let the soul shine in what it can do. Of course we want to act as a whole being and be all of a piece instead of remaining a motley jumble of instincts, memories and plans. It seems clear that we can’t unify ourselves in the middle of the work we are doing — we have to do this beforehand, before the work gets going, so that our best work will shine through; so that we work out of a place of wholeness and let the things we have to offer come forth. But in effect there is no beforehand. You cannot reach or get back behind yourself. There is only the now — there is the thing to do now — there is always new work to be done — the soul always has contradiction in it — so that against our own principles, and against the dream of unifying the soul, we eventually have to give up the dream of unifying the two worlds and work more simply, just to do some good.

4. For which we have the question, what is the good, anyway? and thus the ongoing practice of philosophy, i.e., to ask this question and go on with it through life.

I should say that in conceiving this work and in developing the argument that comes to the conclusion that I have expressed as a corrective historical experience, I have been guided by my study of the works of many classical scholars and historians, including many who reach nearly opposite conclusions, which in outline I want to review here.

Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind: the Greek Origins of European Thought (Die Entdeckung des Geistes, 1946) — a hugely important source for thinking about ancient man’s psychological understandings — begins with Greek ideas about the body. Snell argues that, exactly like their ideas about the psyche, the Archaic Greeks also appear to have conceived the body in a fragmented way, as a collection of unlike parts. In their vocabulary, at its most ancient layer, there is no provision for the body at all. Snell demonstrates that the term soma comes late in Archaic times; before this there are words such as guia, melea, both meaning limbs, demas meaning the frame, chros the limit of the body. Snell claims that the early Greeks simply did not grasp the body as a unit — this is one of his most startling and counterintuitive conclusions.

Psyche — the subject of Ervin Rohde’s pioneering study from 1903 (Psyche: Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der Griechen — Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the Ancient Greeks) — is the force that keeps the human being alive during its life. Conceived as the life principle, the idea of psyche also stirs up questions about the possibility of life after death. Rohde (a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche) and Snell both investigated the somewhat mysterious function psyche plays during life. Both conceived the point of studying history as enlivening our insight, and empowering our actions, in the now.

Snell mentions that Homer does not appear to know the idea of depth as applied to internal states. So there is nothing like deep knowledge, deep thinking, deep feeling. Priam laments the fate of Hector by saying that “I groan and brood over countless griefs” (Iliad 24.639); quantity, not intensity, is Homer’s measure of importance. This goes to the idea that ancient man did not conceive psyche as a place where everything transpiring in consciousness is collected together, which might be sounded down to its primal beginnings.

Snell says that Homer, in his descriptions of ideas or emotions, never goes beyond a purely spatial or quantitative definition; he never attempts to sound their special non-physical nature. Ideas are conveyed through the nous, a mental organ analogous to the eye (Iliad 14.61). Consequently to know is eidenai, which is related to idein, to see, so that ‘to know’ means something like ‘to have seen.’ The eye serves as Homer’s model for the absorption of experiences (as Socrates thinks of knowledge in terms of handling physical material; as Plato thinks of knowledge in terms of mental seeing, or the intuition of essences — a concept Husserl develops further in his 1913 work Ideas; these become important steps for Heidegger in his discovery of being-in-the-world). Thus the intensive coincides with the extensive — he who has seen much is he who has amassed much knowledge — wide-ranging experience engenders true knowledge.

There are no divided feelings in Homer. We have to wait until Sappho to read about bittersweet Eros (the classic source on this remains Wolfgang Schadewaldt, Sappho, Dasein in der Liebe, 1950). Homer is unable to say: half willing, half unwilling. What he says instead is: he was willing, but his thumos was not. This means that there is no contradiction within one and the same organ — within one and the same I — but instead there is contention between a man and one of his organs — his powers or functions or senses. It’s like saying: my hand desired to reach out towards (x), but I withdrew it. That is: two different things or substances are engaged in a quarrel with one another. Snell draws the conclusion that in Homer there is no genuine reflection — no real dialogue of the soul with itself — which implies that genuine reflection depends on a kind of normalized dissociation — a contradiction within one and the same I.

We can see a kind of change from this condition in Heraclitus (fragment 115) where he says that psyche has a logos which increases itself. Thus apparently the soul has something capable of extending and adding to itself of its own accord. So the soul is a kind of base from which certain developments are possible. But we do not attach any similar ideas to the eye or to the hand. For Homer, mental processes have no such capacity for expansion; we can become experienced, but mind does not do this itself.

Thus the augmentation of bodily or spiritual powers is always effected from without — above all by the gods — not by an inner nature of the human mind unfolding itself.

Snell says that in Homer there are no genuine personal decisions. Even where the hero is shown pondering alternative courses of action, at the end the decision is made after the gods have arrived and tipped the scales in one direction or another. Thus there is always a divine meddling and that above all leads to resolution and action. Another way Homer describes these changes is to say that the thumos overwhelmed the kradie; or that one function trumps another.

Snell says that Homeric man has not yet awakened to the fact that he possesses his own psyche, in which he may find the source of his powers, but instead Homeric man senses that he receives his powers as a natural and fitting gift from the gods. Independent psychic powers such as mind or heart have thus a magical connection and existence against a divine background. Despite this, the heroes of the Iliad do not feel that they are the playthings of chaos. That is, they acknowledge the Olympians, and they see the divine world as orderly; the gods have created a well-ordered and meaningful world, even if (despite our trying) we do not understand it.

Snell’s point is that the more the Greeks began to understand themselves, rather than attributing their characters to mythic origins, the more they adopted of the orderly, meaningful Olympian world into themselves. They infused heaven down into earth.

Simone Weil’s The Iliad: The Poem of Force, from 1945, quarrels with the idea that Snell expresses in his claim that Homeric man sees himself living in an orderly world. Weil argues that the true hero at the center of the Iliad is neither god nor man, but force. Gods wield force and man employs force. Force enslaves man and force takes men’s lives. The human spirit is twisted by its relations with force; it is swept away, blinded, deformed, degraded, whether it submits or struggles against it. Force may turn a man subjected to it into a thing; exercised to its limit, it turns the man who wields it into a thing; in the end, in the most literal sense, force turns him into a corpse. Someone was here and in the next minute there is no one here; this is the spectacle that the Iliad drives home again and again; this is the inexplicable final terror of death.

The cold brutality of the deeds of war is left undisguised — plainly rendered to make us stare down the mystery of death. Neither victors nor vanquished are slandered, scorned or hated. Fate and the gods decide the changing lot of battle. Within the limits fixed by fate, the gods determine, with sovereign authority, victory and defeat. The gods provoke fits of madness and create obstacles to peace. War, chaos, trouble, ruin, force — when we finally see clearly, this is what gods want — this is their business. Their motives are thoughtless — caprice and malice — they have no logos. Men are beasts or things neither admired nor condemned, and Weil argues that there is a sense of regret hanging over the scene that men are capable of such degradations.

Bernard Williams’ Shame and Necessity from 1989 quarrels against another of Snell’s conclusions — he argues pretty much against the grain of most classical scholarship from the past century — rather than accept the idea that Homeric psychology shows a fragmented character, he argues that ancient man was much the same as modern man.

Williams denies that Homeric man dissolves into parts, mental and physical. Williams mentions the use of the verb mermerizen, to be anxious or thoughtful. His example is Iliad 24.41 where Diomedes is described as “wondering two ways.” Williams thinks that in some cases, the state of uncertainty for the hero who is wavering between different courses of action closes simply by one course of action coming to seem to the agent, after some kind of deliberative process, to be better than the other.

Williams describes case in which Athena seizes Achilles by the hair when he is wondering whether to kill Agamemnon. She speaks to him and tells him that Hera has sent her and asks for his obedience, and eventually he yields. Williams describes this interchange as a kind of stand-in for seeing that one course of action is better than the other, in terms the agent was already considering; ‘divinity’ gives him an extra and decisive reason, which he did not see before, for preferring one course of action rather than another. Williams argues that the gods are substitutes for a kind of deliberative process that human beings have already begun on their own. Another example is Iliad 10.503 where Diomedes is considering in the heat of battle what would be the worst possible thing to do, when Athena comes and persuades him not to do any of these things, but instead to head back to the ships. Williams wants to describe this as the agent acting on his own reasons, disguised as this divine intervention.

At Odyssey 5 Athena intervenes to persuade Calypso to let the unhappy Odysseus go. But the reader already knows that Calypso has reasons to incline her to do just that –we notice for instance how unhappy her reluctant guest is when Odysseus later tells his host about Calypso and says that she let him go “whether by a message from Zeus or whether of her own mind had turned within her.” The difference that underlies these alternatives seems to be that between a decision for which Calypso could’ve given a good reason, and another in which she perhaps herself doesn’t know, it remains mysterious in the end why she chose as she did. When Medon is saying to Penelope why Telemachus might have made an expedition to Pylos, he says “I don’t know whether some God moved him, or whether of his own mind he had an impulse to go” (Odyssey 7.262, see also 4.712) — Williams argues that these cases shows us the Homeric explanatory scheme at work, which does not imply any thesis about human incapacity to assemble one’s thinking, or make a decision, or to will an action.

Williams says that Homer has no word that means practical deliberation. This is one of the reasons why people have said that the Greeks did not possess a concept of will. Efforts can be made within the mind — but without any effect on shared praxis. Homeric characters can bring themselves up short, or recall themselves to some idea from the past. In many cases Homer uses the formula where a character addresses his own thumos. Iliad 11.407 is an example in which Homer seems to be saying that within the heart there is some kind of a debate going on — i.e., exactly what Snell denies.

So in general William seems to be arguing with Snell and he claims that Homer does have something like a concept of will. Williams says that the reason that Snell and other scholars did not find the concept of will in the ancient Greeks is because the sort of deliberation that these characters had was not in the interests of morality, i.e. not in the interests of duty. He means: will only counts as will (for Snell and others) if it includes an element in which the agent resists his or her impulses and initiates an action that is not the result of an urge, but instead emerges somehow via deliberation.

In a sense, the problem then is a disagreement about what kinds of reasons people should have for their own actions; not about whether they act for reasons at all; not about whether they have any power of will or intention in doing so. When we try to discover a principle that regulates the functions of mind with regard to action in categories that get their significance from ethics, we see that in Western thinking we have to wait until Plato comes along. This ethical idea and moral way of looking at decision-making, according to Williams, is almost entirely Plato’s invention.

So there’s a problem in the philosophy of action — that’s one kind of problem — there is a different problem in moral philosophy — and when we talk about weakness of will (akrasia) and strength of will (enkrateia), we mean some ‘will’ kind of thing, but in the case of the early Greeks — by good consent among scholars — there is no moral or ethical content here. This supports the historical thesis that the advent of the moral conscience coincides with the long historical process that destroys the polis, destroys civitas, the Roman conception of citizenship, thus leading to the tribal-medieval world and its slowly expanding inwardness — creating the modern ‘interior’ psyche.

My argument is, that when we see this history aright, we grasp the slowly forming realization of the central thesis of all existential psychoanalysis, i.e., that the only person who can help me is me. I am not claiming that change comes about merely “by a deliberate, slow, dead heave of the will,” as William James put it. I am talking about the basic realization that no one can change one’s world for one. Getting hold of history becomes a key for self-realization, as Nietzsche and many other thinkers have argued. This is why Freud describes the therapist’s task as the “construction of the past” — “his work of construction or, if it is preferred, reconstruction, resembles the archeologist’s excavation of a dwelling place that has been destroyed and buried.” As the British psychiatrist Charles Rycroft — the colleague of Fairbairn and Winnicott — puts it: “the analyst makes excursions into history in order to understand something which is interfering with his present communication with the patient, as a translator might turn to history to elucidate an obscure text.”

 

[1] A version of this essay was delivered at the 2013 conference of the Existential Psychoanalysis Institute and Society (EPIS), held at the University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, August 3, 2013.  I would like to thank my friends Kevin Boileau, Ph.D. and Eric Springsted, Ph.D. for reading drafts of the essay and providing helpful criticism.

[1] Irwin Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 5

[1] Karl Jaspers, translated by Ralph Mannheim, Way to Wisdom (Princeton: Yale University Press, 1951), p. 47; see also Karl Jaspers, Philosophy and the World, translated by E.B. Ashton (Chicago: Gateway Press, 1963), section 11, “The Idea of the Physician.”

[1] Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, p. 456. 

[1] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology and Myth: Lectures 1951-1982, Ed. R. Wallace (London: Basil Blackwell, 1987).

[1] Hippocrates divides mental disorders into three categories: melancholia (black bile, resulting from an imbalance of bodily humors; melancholia or depression therefore has a physical basis), mania (from mainesthai, to be driven mad, enraged, e.g. used of Bacchic frenzy) and “brain fever.”  Aretaeus, a Greek physician from second century BCE Cappodocia, argued that mental disorders were exaggerations of normal personalities; thus naturally irritable people were prone to mania, and naturally serious people were prone to melancholia.  He also observed that people could switch back and forth between mania and melancholia.  See G.C. Davison and J.M. Neale, Abnormal Psychology, 3rd edition (New York: Wiley, 1982).

[1] A. W. H. Adkins, From the Many to the One (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970), p. 16.  Some of Adkins’ key predecessors include Werner Jaeger, Paideia, three volumes, 1949; E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, 1951, cited above; Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind, 1953, discussed below; and J.P. Vernant, Mythe et Pensée chez les Grecs, études de Psychologie Historique, 1965.

[1] The inscription above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi recommended that a person gnothi seauton — know oneself — an idea Socrates also expressed with other locutions using the word psyche — arguably, Socrates takes self-knowledge to be a principle task of philosophy.  See Charmides 164D, Protagoras 343B, Phaedrus 229E, Philebus 48C, Laws II.923A, I Alcibiades 124A, 129A, 132C.

[1] E.g. at Apology 29D, 38A; Gorgias 523a; Phaedo 114D.  Some of the paradox in the use of the term care (therapeia) for the soul comes out in the discussion at Euthyphro 13.  Socrates notes that the kind of therapeia aimed at dogs (the work of the houndsman) or horses (the equestrian) is intended to improve these creatures.  Euthyphro’s idea that eusebeia, piety, is therapeia for the gods, seems to imply that the care we take about holiness and the sacred, improves the gods — an idea he quickly rejects as bordering on impiety.  In the New Testament (e.g. Acts 27:3), Plato’s term therapeia, service, tending to (originally used in a religious context), is replaced with the neutral epimeleia, take care of, take charge of, manage.

[1] Pierre Hadot, The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Albrecht Dihle, The Theory of Will in Classical Antiquity (Berkeley: University Press, 1982); Michael Frede, A Free Will: Origin of the Notion in Ancient Thought (Berkeley: University Press, 2012).

[1] Existence, edited by Rollo May, Ernest Angel, and Henri F. Ellenberger (New York: Basic Books, 1958); section II of this text contains the essay by Rollo May “Contributions of Existential Psychotherapy.” See section IV.

[1] Existence, ibid.  Section VII of this text contains the essay by Ludwig Binswanger “The Existential Analysis School of Thought,” dating from 1946.  See section III.

[1] Philosophy and the World, 1963, cited above.  See section 12, “Doctor and Patient.”

[1] As Yalom concludes in his work Existential Psychoanalysis, cited above; see IV, 11, “Engagement,” pp. 478-83.

[1] Heidegger is a pioneer in the turn of argument that begins with a concept of ‘being the past’ as a basic way in which Dasein, human reality, exists; thus the past is not something that “follows along” with a human being, but instead runs ahead and defines the basic possibilities.  Tradition keeps Dasein from providing itself its own guidance and sighting of future possibilities.  It blocks access to the primordial; it makes us forget; and we are lost as long as we remain in it.  That is why the first step for any “authentic” self-determining being begins with an uprooting of the past — what Heidegger calls a “phenomenological destruction” — thus the point is never about discovering a person’s “birth certificate” and to narrate his or her life from this departure, but instead, by uprooting the past, and delivering the past to self-determination, and thus “rehistorizing” Dasein from this standpoint, to discover the basic positive possibilities for human reality.  See Being and Time, 1927, Introduction, Part II, section 6.  Arguably, Foucault takes further steps along this line of thought — to get free of history and its limiting influence on the agent’s self-determination and action — via his work in laying out a critical history of key human institutions such as schools, prisons, hospitals and factories — as well as social and sexual mores.  His work The Archeology of Knowledge, 1968, tries to show what ‘knowledge’ has meant, and how it has changed, through historical time; it rejects the idea that we can treat human reality as a “product” of history (which he calls “the retreat from man’s origin”).  His 1978 work Care of the Self tries to imagine a new kind of freedom emerging from critical history — a “rehistorizing” project — aimed at freedom and self-determination in pursuit of the good life.  Since temporal, contingent, historical power has been used to control and define knowledge, when we finally get hold of this process via critical history and take back this power for ourselves, we rediscover ourselves in a position to control and define knowledge on our own.

[1] A version of this essay was delivered at the 2013 conference of the Existential Psychoanalysis Institute and Society (EPIS), held at the University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, August 3, 2013.  I would like to thank my friends Kevin Boileau, Ph.D. and Eric Springsted, Ph.D. for reading drafts of the essay and providing helpful criticism.

[1] Irwin Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 5

[1] Karl Jaspers, translated by Ralph Mannheim, Way to Wisdom (Princeton: Yale University Press, 1951), p. 47; see also Karl Jaspers, Philosophy and the World, translated by E.B. Ashton (Chicago: Gateway Press, 1963), section 11, “The Idea of the Physician.”

[1] Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, p. 456. 

[1] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology and Myth: Lectures 1951-1982, Ed. R. Wallace (London: Basil Blackwell, 1987).

[1] Hippocrates divides mental disorders into three categories: melancholia (black bile, resulting from an imbalance of bodily humors; melancholia or depression therefore has a physical basis), mania (from mainesthai, to be driven mad, enraged, e.g. used of Bacchic frenzy) and “brain fever.”  Aretaeus, a Greek physician from second century BCE Cappodocia, argued that mental disorders were exaggerations of normal personalities; thus naturally irritable people were prone to mania, and naturally serious people were prone to melancholia.  He also observed that people could switch back and forth between mania and melancholia.  See G.C. Davison and J.M. Neale, Abnormal Psychology, 3rd edition (New York: Wiley, 1982).

[1] A. W. H. Adkins, From the Many to the One (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970), p. 16.  Some of Adkins’ key predecessors include Werner Jaeger, Paideia, three volumes, 1949; E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, 1951, cited above; Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind, 1953, discussed below; and J.P. Vernant, Mythe et Pensée chez les Grecs, études de Psychologie Historique, 1965.

[1] The inscription above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi recommended that a person gnothi seauton — know oneself — an idea Socrates also expressed with other locutions using the word psyche — arguably, Socrates takes self-knowledge to be a principle task of philosophy.  See Charmides 164D, Protagoras 343B, Phaedrus 229E, Philebus 48C, Laws II.923A, I Alcibiades 124A, 129A, 132C.

[1] E.g. at Apology 29D, 38A; Gorgias 523a; Phaedo 114D.  Some of the paradox in the use of the term care (therapeia) for the soul comes out in the discussion at Euthyphro 13.  Socrates notes that the kind of therapeia aimed at dogs (the work of the houndsman) or horses (the equestrian) is intended to improve these creatures.  Euthyphro’s idea that eusebeia, piety, is therapeia for the gods, seems to imply that the care we take about holiness and the sacred, improves the gods — an idea he quickly rejects as bordering on impiety.  In the New Testament (e.g. Acts 27:3), Plato’s term therapeia, service, tending to (originally used in a religious context), is replaced with the neutral epimeleia, take care of, take charge of, manage.

[1] Pierre Hadot, The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Albrecht Dihle, The Theory of Will in Classical Antiquity (Berkeley: University Press, 1982); Michael Frede, A Free Will: Origin of the Notion in Ancient Thought (Berkeley: University Press, 2012).

[1] Existence, edited by Rollo May, Ernest Angel, and Henri F. Ellenberger (New York: Basic Books, 1958); section II of this text contains the essay by Rollo May “Contributions of Existential Psychotherapy.” See section IV.

[1] Existence, ibid.  Section VII of this text contains the essay by Ludwig Binswanger “The Existential Analysis School of Thought,” dating from 1946.  See section III.

[1] Philosophy and the World, 1963, cited above.  See section 12, “Doctor and Patient.”

[1] As Yalom concludes in his work Existential Psychoanalysis, cited above; see IV, 11, “Engagement,” pp. 478-83.

[1] Heidegger is a pioneer in the turn of argument that begins with a concept of ‘being the past’ as a basic way in which Dasein, human reality, exists; thus the past is not something that “follows along” with a human being, but instead runs ahead and defines the basic possibilities.  Tradition keeps Dasein from providing itself its own guidance and sighting of future possibilities.  It blocks access to the primordial; it makes us forget; and we are lost as long as we remain in it.  That is why the first step for any “authentic” self-determining being begins with an uprooting of the past — what Heidegger calls a “phenomenological destruction” — thus the point is never about discovering a person’s “birth certificate” and to narrate his or her life from this departure, but instead, by uprooting the past, and delivering the past to self-determination, and thus “rehistorizing” Dasein from this standpoint, to discover the basic positive possibilities for human reality.  See Being and Time, 1927, Introduction, Part II, section 6.  Arguably, Foucault takes further steps along this line of thought — to get free of history and its limiting influence on the agent’s self-determination and action — via his work in laying out a critical history of key human institutions such as schools, prisons, hospitals and factories — as well as social and sexual mores.  His work The Archeology of Knowledge, 1968, tries to show what ‘knowledge’ has meant, and how it has changed, through historical time; it rejects the idea that we can treat human reality as a “product” of history (which he calls “the retreat from man’s origin”).  His 1978 work Care of the Self tries to imagine a new kind of freedom emerging from critical history — a “rehistorizing” project — aimed at freedom and self-determination in pursuit of the good life.  Since temporal, contingent, historical power has been used to control and define knowledge, when we finally get hold of this process via critical history and take back this power for ourselves, we rediscover ourselves in a position to control and define knowledge on our own.

[1] A version of this essay was delivered at the 2013 conference of the Existential Psychoanalysis Institute and Society (EPIS), held at the University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, August 3, 2013.  I would like to thank my friends Kevin Boileau, Ph.D. and Eric Springsted, Ph.D. for reading drafts of the essay and providing helpful criticism.

[2] Irwin Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 5

[3] Karl Jaspers, translated by Ralph Mannheim, Way to Wisdom (Princeton: Yale University Press, 1951), p. 47; see also Karl Jaspers, Philosophy and the World, translated by E.B. Ashton (Chicago: Gateway Press, 1963), section 11, “The Idea of the Physician.”

[4] Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, p. 456. 

[5] Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropology and Myth: Lectures 1951-1982, Ed. R. Wallace (London: Basil Blackwell, 1987).

[6] Hippocrates divides mental disorders into three categories: melancholia (black bile, resulting from an imbalance of bodily humors; melancholia or depression therefore has a physical basis), mania (from mainesthai, to be driven mad, enraged, e.g. used of Bacchic frenzy) and “brain fever.”  Aretaeus, a Greek physician from second century BCE Cappodocia, argued that mental disorders were exaggerations of normal personalities; thus naturally irritable people were prone to mania, and naturally serious people were prone to melancholia.  He also observed that people could switch back and forth between mania and melancholia.  See G.C. Davison and J.M. Neale, Abnormal Psychology, 3rd edition (New York: Wiley, 1982).

[7] A. W. H. Adkins, From the Many to the One (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970), p. 16.  Some of Adkins’ key predecessors include Werner Jaeger, Paideia, three volumes, 1949; E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, 1951, cited above; Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind, 1953, discussed below; and J.P. Vernant, Mythe et Pensée chez les Grecs, études de Psychologie Historique, 1965.

[8] The inscription above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi recommended that a person gnothi seauton — know oneself — an idea Socrates also expressed with other locutions using the word psyche — arguably, Socrates takes self-knowledge to be a principle task of philosophy.  See Charmides 164D, Protagoras 343B, Phaedrus 229E, Philebus 48C, Laws II.923A, I Alcibiades 124A, 129A, 132C.

[9] E.g. at Apology 29D, 38A; Gorgias 523a; Phaedo 114D.  Some of the paradox in the use of the term care (therapeia) for the soul comes out in the discussion at Euthyphro 13.  Socrates notes that the kind of therapeia aimed at dogs (the work of the houndsman) or horses (the equestrian) is intended to improve these creatures.  Euthyphro’s idea that eusebeia, piety, is therapeia for the gods, seems to imply that the care we take about holiness and the sacred, improves the gods — an idea he quickly rejects as bordering on impiety.  In the New Testament (e.g. Acts 27:3), Plato’s term therapeia, service, tending to (originally used in a religious context), is replaced with the neutral epimeleia, take care of, take charge of, manage.

[10] Pierre Hadot, The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Albrecht Dihle, The Theory of Will in Classical Antiquity (Berkeley: University Press, 1982); Michael Frede, A Free Will: Origin of the Notion in Ancient Thought (Berkeley: University Press, 2012).

[11] Existence, edited by Rollo May, Ernest Angel, and Henri F. Ellenberger (New York: Basic Books, 1958); section II of this text contains the essay by Rollo May “Contributions of Existential Psychotherapy.” See section IV.

[12] Existence, ibid.  Section VII of this text contains the essay by Ludwig Binswanger “The Existential Analysis School of Thought,” dating from 1946.  See section III.

[13] Philosophy and the World, 1963, cited above.  See section 12, “Doctor and Patient.”

[14] As Yalom concludes in his work Existential Psychoanalysis, cited above; see IV, 11, “Engagement,” pp. 478-83.

[15] Heidegger is a pioneer in the turn of argument that begins with a concept of ‘being the past’ as a basic way in which Dasein, human reality, exists; thus the past is not something that “follows along” with a human being, but instead runs ahead and defines the basic possibilities.  Tradition keeps Dasein from providing itself its own guidance and sighting of future possibilities.  It blocks access to the primordial; it makes us forget; and we are lost as long as we remain in it.  That is why the first step for any “authentic” self-determining being begins with an uprooting of the past — what Heidegger calls a “phenomenological destruction” — thus the point is never about discovering a person’s “birth certificate” and to narrate his or her life from this departure, but instead, by uprooting the past, and delivering the past to self-determination, and thus “rehistorizing” Dasein from this standpoint, to discover the basic positive possibilities for human reality.  See Being and Time, 1927, Introduction, Part II, section 6.  Arguably, Foucault takes further steps along this line of thought — to get free of history and its limiting influence on the agent’s self-determination and action — via his work in laying out a critical history of key human institutions such as schools, prisons, hospitals and factories — as well as social and sexual mores.  His work The Archeology of Knowledge, 1968, tries to show what ‘knowledge’ has meant, and how it has changed, through historical time; it rejects the idea that we can treat human reality as a “product” of history (which he calls “the retreat from man’s origin”).  His 1978 work Care of the Self tries to imagine a new kind of freedom emerging from critical history — a “rehistorizing” project — aimed at freedom and self-determination in pursuit of the good life.  Since temporal, contingent, historical power has been used to control and define knowledge, when we finally get hold of this process via critical history and take back this power for ourselves, we rediscover ourselves in a position to control and define knowledge on our own.

[16] Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind: the Greek Origins of European Thought, translation by T.G. Rosenmeyer (New York, Dover, 1953), p. 7.

[17] Ibid., p. 16.

[18] Nietzsche dissects the ‘I’ and the basis of reflection in his 1886 work Beyond Good and Evil, section 16.

[19] Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind, p. 19.

[20] Simone Weil, translated by Mary McCarthy, The Iliad, or The Poem of Force (Wallingford, Pennsylvania: Pendle Hill, 1945), p. 19.

[21] Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), especially chapters two (“Centres of Agency”) and Six (“Possibility, Freedom and Power”).

[22] Shame and Necessity, ibid., p. 36.

[23] Shame and Necessity, ibid., pp. 42-49.

[24] William James, Psychology: Briefer Course (New York: Collier, 1962), (originally written in 1890), p. 430.

[25] Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, cited above, p. 292

[26] Nietzsche first explored this thesis in his early work The Utility and Liability of History for Life (1874).  George Orwell extends the thesis to political questions in his saying from Nineteen Eighty-four: “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

[27] Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Works of Sigmund Freud  (London: Hogarth Press, 1964), volume xxiii, “Constructions in Analysis,” (originally written in 1937), here p. 259.

[28] Charles Rycroft, Psychoanalysis Observed (London: Pelican Books, 1966), p. 18