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October 16, 2009

Announcing the seventh annual Psychology for the Other seminar hosted by the  Seattle University psychology department.  The seminar focuses on the philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas and the application to psychology, and more specifically psychotherapy.  Emmanuel Levinas was a French philosopher who studied under phenomenologists Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger.  Levinas lived from 1906-1995 and was an important part of the existential-phenomenological movement in France.  He inspired great thinkers including Sartre and Merleau-Ponty.

Levinas’ philosophy is unique from that of Husserl and Heidegger, in that he emphasizes the Other as the foundation for ethical responsibility.  Husserl, and Heidegger even more dramatically, maintained an egological view on ontology, arguing for Dasein’s concern for his own being.  Levinas says I am responsible for the Other without waiting for reciprocity, were I to die for it.  Reciprocity is his affair.  It is precisely insofar as the relation between the Other and me is not reciprocal that I am subjection to the Other, and I am “subject” essentially in the sense.  It is I who support all… The I always has one responsibility more than all the others.”  One can see the application of such a unique philosophy to the therapeutic relationship.  As clinicians, we are called to responsibility by our clients. Husserl, Heidegger and Levinas all have relevance to the psychology field and their work deserves more attention.

Visit the link above to access further information and abstracts/papers that will be presented on October 24th at the seminar.  George Kunz, the founder of the existential-phenomenological psychology program at Seattle University will be moderating, as Levinas has been very infuential in his life.

Another quote I like by Levinas:

“A calling into question of the Same–which annot occur within the egoistic spontaneity of the Same–is brought about by the Other.  We name this calling into question of my spontaneity by the presence of the Other ethics.  The strangeness of the Other, his irreducibility to the I, to my thoughts and my possessions, is precisely accomplished as a calling into question of my sponteneity as ethics.  Metaphysics, transcendence, the welcoming of the Other by the Same, of the Other by Me, is concretely produced as the calling into question of the Same by the Other, that is, as the ethics that accomplishes the critical essence of knowledge.” (Totality and Infinity, 1969, p. 33)