Being For the Oth­er: Emmanuel Lev­inas, Eth­i­cal Liv­ing and Psychoanalysis

Paul Mar­cus
  • Review
By – January 16, 2012
This book tack­les one of the 20th century’s most com­plex philoso­phers, whose writ­ings are dif­fi­cult at best and enig­mat­ic and con­fus­ing more often than not. Lev­inas was a philoso­pher, Tal­mud­ist, and Renais­sance man” par excel­lence. Mar­cus, an expert in Lev­inas and a prac­tic­ing psy­cho­an­a­lyst, is also a pro­lif­ic author of books and arti­cles in the areas of psy­chol­o­gy, reli­gion, spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, race rela­tions, foren­sic psy­chol­o­gy, and the­ater. The author is more than up to the task in this fas­ci­nat­ing book as he explores issues relat­ed to a psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic under­stand­ing of the Lev­inasian core prin­ci­ple of Being for the Oth­er” (man­i­fest­ed by respon­si­bil­i­ty for the Oth­er”) as applied to: exis­ten­tial and psy­cho­log­i­cal under­stand­ings of anx­i­ety, depres­sion and ter­ror; love (erot­ic and oth­er­wise); the Holo­caust and how the beliefs of Ortho­dox Jews (and oth­er believ­ers”) enabled them to make the suf­fer­ing suf­fer­able;” reli­gion, and Judaism in par­tic­u­lar; and, the impli­ca­tions for psy­cho­analy­sis in the real world. Clin­i­cal vignettes at the end of many of the chap­ters give read­er a taste of how Lev­inas’ phi­los­o­phy could be incor­po­rat­ed into ther­a­peu­tic con­cep­tu­al­iza­tions and/​or inter­ven­tions. Be pre­pared to stretch your mind, for this is not Lev­inas for Dum­mies (a nev­er-writ­ten book). Patience and per­se­ver­ance yield rewards in Mar­cus’ tinged-with-bril­liance last chap­ter on a Lev­inasian-infused psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic approach to under­stand­ing per­son­al­i­ty, psy­chopathol­o­gy, and treat­ment that may be con­sis­tent with Freud’s orig­i­nal ide­al­ized intent. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index.
William Liss-Levin­son is vice pres­i­dent, chief strat­e­gy & oper­a­tions offi­cer of Cas­tle Con­nol­ly Med­ical Ltd., a con­sumer health research, infor­ma­tion, and pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny. He holds a Ph.D. in edu­ca­tion and is a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of the Jew­ish Book Council.

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