Friday, June 16, 2006

Guignon on Authenticity, Values, and Psychotherapy

I've been going through a number of articles in the Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, trying to return to the Heideggerian basics, having spent most of my time lately in the later Heidegger. One of the concepts that I haven't done much reading in is that of authenticity. As such, I decided to take some time and read through Charles Guignon's "Authenticity, Moral Values, and Psychotherapy," the last aspect being of interest due to my entering the UWG Psychology program in August. Here is a summary and commentary of Guignon's paper:

Psychotherapy and the Question of the Good Life
Guignon begins by noting the high regard that Heidegger often has in existential psychology, with particular mention of Medard Boss. Unfortunately, "what one usually finds is a Heidegger refracted through the lens of the far more accessible writings of Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus" (215). I've also noticed this in my interactions with those who claim some understanding of Heidegger: he is more often than not seen as an existentialist with a morbid fascination with anxiety and death (drawing on a Sartrean interpretation of Being and Time). But as existentialism is now held in less regard, psychologists often think that Heidegger has nothing to contribute, understood as he was through an existentialist lens. Guignon conjectures that the decline of existentialism is largely due to its inability to "capture the concrete realities of actual existence" because of, for example, notions like the "terrible freedom" that denies our being embedded in a social and physical world and an amoral notion of authenticity (215-216).

Even with the decline of such existentialist views there still remains a conviction that "scientific" approaches to psychology similarly lack the resources to capture the concrete application and theory of psychotherapy. "One way to describe this gap between theory and practice is to say that standard theories fail to make sense of the rich and complex forms of moral discourse that characterize therapeutic dialogue" (216). Appealing to Ira Progoff (The Death and Rebirth of Psychology), it was the scientific/technological paradigm that created the space wherein our modern psychological problems could develop. Pre-modern societies had recourse to their religious and social traditions, rituals, and practices for their values; in a world where such traditions are put into question and individualism becomes the norm, the individual is cut off from his past and forced to find his own way in his future. Because of this the therapists are called upon to be the moral authorities: "the theological priesthood has lost much of its authority...the scientist practicing counseling and psychotherapy assumes a new moral authority. He is asked to make moral pronouncements in the name of science in the way the clergy was called upon for religious directives" (C. Marshall Lowe, Value Orientations in Counseling and Psychotherapy: The Meaning of Mental Health, 16-17; 217). Left in a moral vacuum no longer filled by traditions and accepted authorities, individuals are less likely to come to the therapist with classic Freudian neuroses and more likely to have pervasive feelings of meaninglessness and alienation.

This new role that the therapist is asked to take on might be too much given the dominant paradigm: science is often felt to be amoral; it does not work from basic values, but only seeks to objectively describe states of affairs (or so it thinks; Guignon will help disabuse us of this illusion; see also Charles Taylor on modernity). Given the dominant view (discussed by Taylor in his contribution to this work, which I will go through later)--of bare causal inputs that are then 'given' meaning by the mind--morals are thought of either as the concern of the patient herself or in terms of whatever dominant "self-evident" norms are generally accepted by the professional community. Within an eclectic or pluralistic society, the therapist's desire for 'objectivity' and not wishing to 'force' his beliefs on the patient places him in an even harder position. I would also add that this is exacerbated by the current drive to sue that seems to be so prevalent in our society, perhaps in terms of being 'religiously oppressed' or some other such thing.

The importance of addressing and making explicit this moral dimension of human existence that seems to be so important with the increase of patient's neuroses of 'meaningless' should be clear. Guignon feels that Heidegger's understanding of authenticity (eigentlich) "has a great deal to offer" (218). For those who have read Being and Time this will seem like a strange claim--Heidegger himself strongly denied any moral significance to authenticity, that it is morally 'better' to be authentic than inauthentic (though it still does creep in, against his explicit claim). I'm not sure if Guignon has convinced me otherwise, but he does make a good argument. Here is Guignon's thesis:

By working out Heidegger's alternative view of human existence and authenticity, I hope to show that moral concerns are an inescapable part of any project of understanding humans, and that they quite naturally will be central to any meaningful therapeutic dialogue. In trying to display the evaluative dimension of psychotherapy, my aim is not to propose a new technique, but to provide an ontological basis for understanding what always goes on in therapy though it is never fully comprehended in standard theories. (218)
Underlying Assumptions of Psychotherapy Theories
Guignon sees naturalism as the dominant paradigm in modern psychotherapeutic theories--"because humans are a part of nature, we understand them by applying the same canons of explanation used for other parts of nature [i.e. physics]" (218). Guignon identifies three general assumptions that appear to give content to this paradigm: first, following 17th century physics, it rejects the view that the world consists of inherently meaningful entities. The cosmos, at its core, is a valueless mass of particles in motion. Included in this view is the self as a physical object, though with some sense of "inwardness," of an inner self that is only contingently related to the outside world (the disengaged Cartesian subject).

The second assumption is a view of agency as a means-end calculator; humans consider the options before them, do a cost-benefit analysis (of some sort), and then make a decision according to what will potentially yield the greatest benefit. Within a causal world, what other view could there be: we exert causal force on the causal world in order to bring about some effect; the result is the primary aim, the telos of our actions, as our cause sinks into nonexistence in the linear temporal order. This temporal assumption will be addressed partially by Guignon, but there are other accounts that are also useful (I'll post about them soon). This led to a technologizing of self-improvement--with the guidance of an expert (the therapist) the individual could learn to structure their lives according to pure rationality and become expert calculators. Guignon refers to programs that give "procedures of self-transformation described in a vocabulary of reworking the self to achieved particular ends" (219). Though he does not mention them, this rationalization of agency also includes the 'inner' self--the 'think-it-till-you-are-it' techniques that give so much importance to our 'inner will' or 'inner self.' The remarkable thing about this approach, Guignon notes, is its inability to give value to the things in question--the patient is often called to either fulfill their basic needs/drives or are given no counsel at all, left to their own devices. For these methodologies, psychotherapy remains indifferent to the ends achieved, as long as they are achieved with the proper methodology.

The third assumption is what Guignon refers to as "ontological individualism"--"the view that human reality is to be understood in terms of self-encapsulated individuals who are only contingently aggregated into social systems" (220). I am, essentially, a self that is only contingently related to my culture; in my 'inner' world, which is where I am 'located,' I give meaning to the 'outer' world, which includes others. By virtue of such contingency, the 'inner' is both temporally and epistemologically prior to the 'outer,' including my culture. This view almost inevitably leads to a view of human relations as conflict--when every individual is seeking to achieve their particular ends through whatever means possible (as no means can be more or less valuable in an objective world), others will be seen either as help or hindrance to my goals and are treated as such. Every relationship, then, is seen as a tentative truce held until the other is no longer 'of use' to myself.

In the 50s and 60s, humanistic/existentialist psychology came to the fore of psychological discussion. Eschewing the 'scientific' approach to man, they accepted an "expressivistic" approach, reminiscent of Romanticism--"the self contains an inner seed of potential that is capable of self-fulfillment through artistic creativity, communion with nature, and intense relationships with others" (220). Unfortunately, one inherent presupposition of this paradigm is the individualism assumed by the scientific approach, thus tacitly assuming that which they sought to overcome and unknowingly taking on its consequences. Guignon then discuses how this individualism, including the lack of an ability to posit non-technologically (means-end) based values, weakens the theories of Rollo May, Medard Boss, and Ludwig Binswanger. Ultimately these approaches are faulty, if only for the fact that our "seed of potential" includes not only goodness, but also selfishness, hostility, hate, and oppression. May/Boss/Binswanger's dictate to fulfill one's possibilities provide no basis on which to reject these possibilities, raising the question of whether they are also included in the 'authentic life.'

Central to both Boss and Binswanger is their belief in what is the core value of modern individualism: freedom understood negatively as freedom from constraints. It may be the case, however, that this ideal of unbounded freedom is self-defeating. For where all things are equally possible, nothing is really binding, and so no choice is superior to any others. Freedom then becomes, in Rieff's classic line, the "absurdity of being freed to chose and then having no choice worth making" [The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud, 93]. (223)
With this, the humanistic/existentialist views revert back to that which they were arguing against--the meaninglessness of life and the essential loneliness of the individual in the world. By trying to overcome the meaninglessness of modern scientific approaches, the existential psychologist falls prey to the same fault--the inability to posit values. What we need is a new way of conceiving human existence itself, rather than a mere modification of the currently dominant view.

Everydayness and Inauthenticity
Heidegger, in his phenomenology of the human mode of existence, tried to ignore the presuppositions of the modernistic view of the self and, instead, vigorously pursued the phenomena itself to see what it has to say. Man, in his being, is more of an "event or happening" (in his later thought, Ereignis) than an object. Because of this, it is wrong to say that man is essentially 'inner,' either in consciousness or experience; similarly, we cannot say that we 'find' our selves as we find our keys, as one object (albeit a personal or reflexive one) among others. As an event, Dasein finds itself only in what it does, which essentially (i.e. not contingently) includes the transcendent--the world, one's family, one's culture. Quoting Heidegger, "Even one's own Dasein [is] something it can itself proximally 'come across' only when it looks away from 'experiences' and the 'center of its actions,' or does not yet 'see' them at all. Dasein finds 'itself' proximally in what it does" (B&T 155/H119). This is a common phenomena: I am a student because I participate in student activities (go to class, write papers, talk with professors, pay tuition, etc.) within a student context (a university); I am a husband because I do husband actions (I love my wife, perform husbandly duties, planning my life with someone, do her laundry with mine, etc.) within a husband context (civic/religious marriage ceremony, living together).

There is no 'human nature'--the essential list of properties that determine what I am--but only our essential relation with beings and the possibilities that we enact in that relation. Our 'essence,' in a classical view, consists in this active relationship and is inherently dynamic, as opposed to static (hence, not a traditional 'essence'), as seen in the later Heidegger understanding of Dasein as Ereignis--the event of appropriation. For the existentialist/humanist I am striving to recover my "true self" that lies hidden 'within' me; my actions are valued as better or worse only to the degree that they fulfill this inner self. We can see the classic dichotomies between mind/body and inner/out, where the mind/inner instrumentally determines the body/outer. For Heidegger, on the other hand, there is no clear demarcation between an inner and outer. Guignon coins this a "'manifestationist' view of human agency," saying that "to say that we are what we do is to say that our very identity as agents--our being--is defined and realized only through our ways of becoming manifest in the world" (224). As an example, Guignon suggests that we look at a blunt person--it is not the case that her straight-forward responses come from some inner property called 'bluntness,' but her bluntness itself is her being blunt, her acting blunt. In the same way, I am angry, I am happy, I am suspicious when I act within (or interact with) the world in that way.

As an aside, this 'externalist' view of mind (if it can be termed that) has a ubiquitous presence in our lives. In his work, Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy Wilson gives story after story of how we are ignorant of ourselves, even of those things that are supposedly 'closer' to us than not--our thoughts, desires, feelings, etc. In a few particularly interesting case studies, he provocatively demonstrated how others often know us better than we do--they can see when we are worried when we can't, they know the kind of person we are better than we do. Unless we posit some sort of mind-reading of the alleged 'inner' aspects of our self to our friends/associates, the connection between the 'inner' with the 'outer' is much stronger than traditionally thought, if not (as Heidegger argues) inseparable. Of course, to view them as inseparable is to present a different understanding of the 'inner' and 'outer,' so perhaps to think of it in those terms will import too many traditional assumptions that are not coherently importable. Heidegger's being-in-the-world and being-there (Dasein) express the connection better than the traditional inner/outer distinction. Again, we must unrelentingly pursue the phenomena rather than dwell on modern conceptions.

Heidegger revealingly describes "being-a-self" as a "process of realization" (The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, 139; 224). Drawing on Ricoeur, our identity is not stable, but is enacted throughout our lives in narrative form. The upshot is that we can only understand another (and ourselves) by understanding where they have come from, where they are, and where they are going. As with any narrative, any given action is understandable only by being found within a context--that person A performed x in context s which is situated in plot h. To use one historical example, to understand that WC had an affair with ML includes WC's history of infidelity, the professional relationship between the two, and the aftermath of the event's coming to light. Every contextual addition enriches to our understanding of "WC had an affair with ML" and makes it more intelligible. For Heidegger this three-fold temporality expresses itself in Dasein's temporal mode of being. Dasein is essentially "ahead of itself" in that it is always projecting itself into various possibilities. Every action I perform involves enacting some possibilities rather than others, with each enactment determining my identity, determining what kind of person I am. How I relate to my wife, my work, my personal studies are all determinative for me and my future, of whether I will be a bad husband, a lazy worker, or an exceptional student. This is Heidegger's "being-toward-death"--"everything we do contributes to making us people of a particular sort" (225).

As human beings, we are essentially related to a past, we are "thrown" into a culture, a family, a set of values (explicit and implicit) that informs our lives. My religious commitments, how I am raised, the cultural climate of my childhood, the ways of being that I learn (again, explicitly or implicitly) from my parents, siblings, and other authority figures, the dominant stories (be they Biblical, Buddhist, or fairy tales) that were commonly reiterated all give content to my present. Furthermore, they also in part determine my possibilities--within my religious context the possibility of killing someone is seen as 'impossible,' within my familial context the possibility of using a woman and then dismissing her is not a genuine possibility, etc. In every case, some possibilities are 'acceptable' and others 'unacceptable' because 'we don't do that,' 'that's not what a Winters boy does,' 'I can't, I'm Mormon.' Heidegger describes this in terms of what Macquarrie and Robinson translate as "the 'they,'" which has also been (in my mind better) translated as "the 'one.'" It comes from the German das Man, as in "Wie spricht Man..." and "Wie tun Man..." ("How does one say..." and "How does one do..."). Thus, as a student I go to classes because "that's what one does when one is a student"; as a husband I love my wife because "that's what one does when one is married"; I eat with a spoon because "that's how one eats food"; etc.

In its inauthentic manifestation, we do these things because they are natural, they are taken for granted, that's just how things are done! One eats with a spoon, one opens doors for women, one shakes the other's hand when introduced, one stands a certain distance from the other when speaking (i.e. respects 'personal space'), one drives on the right side of the road, one raises one's hand before speaking in class, one has tea every day at noon, one turns off their cell phone during a movie, one attends their children's activities, one avoids certain language in certain contexts, one burps after a meal to show approval, one wears a shirt and shoes inside a store, one shows respect to one's elders/superiors, etc., etc., etc. Our lives are informed by an indeterminably large number of norms for action/being, most of which we do simply because that is 'what one does.' It is against this background that our actions are intelligible, it provides the context or plot wherein our thoughts, feelings, and actions have meaning. This is even the case when I deviate from these norms, as my actions are 'deviant' only by virtue of occurring against the background of 'conformist' behavior/practices; thus I can never escape my background, even as my horizon's expand into new contexts. By providing the basis of our possible ways of being, our past is a positive constituent of what/who I am.

Our thrownness, however, also has some negative possibilities. Our average understanding of how things are and what one does is a leveled understanding, brought down to the lowest common denominator. Our norms and average language must be understandable by anyone, or else we could not even communicate; we thus must share a basic understanding of things, both from direct experience and from 'idle talk.' But this understanding must, of necessity, be vague and undeveloped, which fact is seen by any expert when they attempt to discuss their work with a layman--there are many things that are lost on the layman due to their level of understanding, many things that they do not see or distinctions that they are unaware of. Also, when things are seen as 'obvious,' we have a tendency to simply "go with the flow," unthinkingly following common norms in any given aspect of our lives. By doing so we limit our understanding of our possibilities--they are restricted to what one does, what one expects from life, and they become "the only game in town" (226-227). We need to understand, however, that this isn't necessarily bad--our basic abilities to converse with one another, to do many things (eat with utensils, drive a car, etc.) naturally, and to not get bogged down in excessive Humean doubt are made possible by our thrownness. Its consequence, though, is giving us a poor sense of our possibilities, of what we can do and become, which includes a sense of our selves, though it is a positive sense (however vague). But it is only against this background that I can become authentic, that I can take up some possibilities genuinely.

The third temporal aspect of Dasein's mode of being is that of "falling." In our projection into possibilities based on our being thrown into a context, there is the possibility of becoming bogged down in our present. By assuming that the average everyday understanding of our possibilities are "the only game in town," one becomes unconcerned with one's future--one simply expects what one should expect and thus one gets lost in what das Man has already dictated. When this happens we have a non-genuine relationship with our possibilities, with our selves--we accept and enact possibilities simply because that is what one does. Heidegger has two different levels of forgetting--in the first, we lose ourselves in our actions. When we are running to catch the bus there is no explicit or implicit "I am running" or understanding of it as one possibility among others; we are simply engrossed in the situation, in the bus and our attempting to catch it, and no "I" or "I could be doing something else" invades. This first kind of forgetting is necessary for any effective action within the world as we direct ourselves toward beings. In the second kind of forgetting, however, we forget that we have forgotten--we relinquish the possibility of remembering our temporality, of our ability to project in ways that are not already dictated by das Man (this kind of forgetting is further discussed in the latter half of "On the Essence of Truth," which I haven't gotten to yet in my summary/commentary). By continually catering to what das Man dictates in its average everyday understanding of things, we lose site of the fact that we are the ones projecting our possibilities, not the amorphous "one" or "everyone." This is seen in the linguistic signifiers "one," which can refer to anyone, and "I," which designates a specific beings (myself). The forgetful Dasein thus gets bogged down in "more of the same," loses itself in das Man and their leveled expectations. What else can result from such an existence than a feeling of alienation, meaninglessness, and being ungrounded? When your life is essentially determined by 'what one does' rather than, say, 'what I do,' feelings of powerlessness and alienation are inevitable.

In contradistinction with inauthenticity, we have authenticity. Within Heidegger's thought, authenticity is not to be confused with the Romantics or Sartre's (mis)interpretation of Heidegger's work, the consequences of which have already been discussed. Being authentic does not remove the individual from their background (their thrownness), but more genuinely involves the individual in it: "since our own life stories are inseparable from the wider text of a shared we-world, authenticity can be nothing other than a fuller and richer form of participation in the public context" (228). It might be good, before proceeding with Guignon's analysis, to understand the illuminating etymology of authenticity, or eigentlich. Eigen, in German, can be translated in terms of what is "actual" or "appropriate," but the meaning Heidegger is directing us towards is that of "what is one's own" or "what is mine." An authentic life, then, is one that makes something one's own. What this something is will naturally depend on your views of Dasein, of man's mode of existence. Within Heidegger's view, where one is actively and concernfully situated within a culture and world, it is making that world and the beings within it your own. The hermeneutic (hence, narrative) parallel should be obvious--making the alien familiar through translation and interpretation.

What is altered in an authentic existence is not necessarily the specific actions that you perform; thus, to be authentic does not necessarily mean a change in behavior or practice. Rather, what is changed is how you relate to your own temporality, to your own possibilities. In inauthenticity we evade this ownness: we allow ourselves to be thrown into the everyday and what das Man expects of us in order to forget that we have to take a stand on our existence, on our mode of being (the second forgetting). In being inauthentic it is not the case that I haven't taken a stand on my existence, as I am still appropriating the world; but what that stand is happens to be determined by something other than myself and I forget my essential relationship with my possibilities. Granted, das Man is also essentially related to my possibilities, das Man is not itself sufficient for my possibilities; Dasein must be being-with, being-alongside-others which entails Dasein's temporality. By being before death, by understanding our utmost ability not to be (or not to be Dasein), we can take a more engaged role in determining who and what we are, on becoming active in that determination rather than passive in das Man's dictates. By taking this authentic stand on our existence, our lives are transformed in a subtle way: we no long depend wholly on das Man to understand our possibilities (either as limited or infinite) and we have a clearer view of our possibilities. This view is not perfect, by any means, but it is more genuine, more true to man's constitution as an individual, or, better put, as an-individual-with-others.

In this authentic life, our possibilities take on a new crispness or lucidity. Within das Man there is always the dumbed-down understanding of possibility that is dominated and even constituted by a vagueness; even where the extraordinary is spoken of, it is shrouded in an averageness that allows for no foreseeable limits. In the context not spoken of by Heidegger or Guignon--that of being given extremely limited options ("you'll never become anything," "no one ever leaves [insert name of location here]," etc.)--the extraordinary is not spoken of at all, or if it is it is made into some unattainable ideal that is better ignored than attempted with supposedly inevitable failure. In these cultures, das Man continues to determine the possible and the inauthentic Dasein takes them up rather than relating to its own possibilities, what its own context, abilities, and potentialities allow. By taking an authentic stand on our existence, then, we give coherence to our lives: our actions can be understood in terms of our own temporal way of being rather than the vague 'what one can do.' As stated earlier, the events in a story are intelligible only in terms of the wider plot; similarly, one's actions are now intelligible because they are genuinely situated in a more precise context.

To better understand this, Guignon makes an important distinction between a "means-end" approach to actions and a "constituent-end" approach to actions (230-231). In the first, our life is seen as an attempt to find means to particular ends, whatever those ends may be (recall the view of causation spoken of in the second section). Actions, in this case, are valuable only in terms of their ability to help us reach our goals, i.e. they are instrumentally valuable. Within the "constituent-end" approach, I understand that my actions are intimately connected to who/what I was, who/what I am, and who/what I will be and, as such, they are valuable in themselves. Thus, instead of running in order to be healthy and helping another in order to assist them, I run as part of being a healthy person and I help the other as part of being a helpful person. In the first, I do something in order to accomplish something; in the second, I do something in the context of existing in a certain way. Though the actions are the same in both cases, the grounds for their instantiation are substantially different: with the instrumentalist, life is seen as periodic events constituted by actions that can get me something; with the constitutionist, life is a temporal whole (past, present, and future, even towards death) wherein the actions are situated, which actions constitute who/what I am. Guignon put it nicely:

Where the means-end attitude trivializes the present by keeping us preoccupied with the carrot at the end of the stick, the constituent-end approach, by making us realize that what we are doing at this moment just is realizing the goals of living, throws us intensely into the present moment as the arena in which our coming-to-fruition is fulfilled. Running and being a friend are not just impositions I could as well do without; they make me the person I am. What is important is building myself as this kind of person, not scoring points or getting rewards "down the road." (231)
The upshot of this is that the inauthentic existence is simultaneously a misunderstanding of human existence itself: it misunderstands the ontological function of means and their deeper ontological/temporal foundations in Dasein's existence (i.e. projection, thrownness, and fallenness/forgetting). By thus misunderstanding man's mode of existence, the instrumentalist further perpetuates a limited understanding of man, insofar as man does act instrumentally, but only on the basis of constituent modes of being. This should clarify the fact that authenticity is not a question of discovering our 'true inner self' nor is it merely 'doing what I want.' Rather, it is a concept that is intimately tied to existence, to the question of being, or the being of Dasein (which is a preparatory question on the way to being). Also, authenticity does not reject the instrumentalist view per se, but only questions its supposedly fundamental nature.

The Self as a Moral Agent: Implications for Psychotherapy
From the above, Heidegger's view of Dasein sees a direct correlation between who we are and what we can become. Contrary to early Heidegger (but perhaps correctly), Guignon sees in this an ethical imperative--that we are called to be authentic--showing a necessary ethical aspect to human existence that both the modernist/scientific and existential psychoanalysts cannot account for: "Heidegger's account of life gives us a way of seeing substantive moral questions as an unavoidable part of any attempt to understand human beings" (231). I, for one, think that Guignon would do better to tie the ethical aspect of authenticity to Heidegger's later thought, or perhaps with Levinas, as it is not clear at all in his earlier works--we are obligated to being and the appearing of beings through appropriation (Ereignis) and, hence, have a responsibility (or response-ability) to being and (for Levinas) the Other. Through technology we 'challenge' and even do violence to being by constraining beings to appear within its frame (Ge-Stell) instead of releasing it to its own being; the former is inauthentic while the latter is authentic. In the former beings can only appear through the lens of technology; in the latter beings can appear as technology, but are also free to appear as something else. In Levinasian terms, it is letting the Other (in this case being/beings) be Other in its alterity even as it appears as something familiar. But that is for another entry.

Guignon next addresses the possible objection that Heideggerian authenticity still does not address how we are to bring these ideas up in a therapeutic setting. If we are to respect the diversity in modern society, any appeal to some moral values might be seen as an imposition on the freedom of others. This, however, itself assumes the relativity that it attempts to preserve--it assumes, but does not argue for, the value of pluralism. As such, far from being value neutral, naturalistic and psychoanalytic approaches themselves value the objective valueless stance; in Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self, this objective approach (starting in Augustine and culminating in Descartes) is seen as the Good, the methodology or mode of being that is considered better than a 'subjective' approach. Far from lacking a moral or valuative stance, the appeal to objectivity itself presupposes and thrives on a value judgment--that the disengaged approach to life/the world is 'better' and more valuable than the engaged/subjective approach to 'get at the real, the really real, the really really real, the REALLY really really real.' What we should realize, given what we've said above, is that this value judgment could very well be a prime cause of the disorders that people are paying the therapist to address--their lives are groundless, they have no authorities, no dominant narratives that give their lives meaning, they dwell in a meaningless world, they feel alienated. The patient, then, comes to the therapist with this feeling of alienation only to be told, or at least to be assumed in the therapist's methods, that that is just the way things are; buck up and courageously take up your life's meaninglessness in whatever way you want. To re-quote Reiff from earlier in the paper, we can safely speak of the "absurdity of being freed to chose and then having no choice worth making" (The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud, 93; 223).

This self-defeating approach, seen in terms of what the therapist assumes and what the patient is suffering from, should make us reevaluate our presuppositions. Guignon ends his article by giving four ways that he thinks Heideggerian authenticity can help us better see the necessary moral dimension of therapy. First, Heideggerian authenticity, while not giving us a method, does give us "metavalues" such as "resoluteness, steadiness, courage, and, above all, clear-sightedness about one's own life as a finite, thrown projection" (232). While these metavalues are also assumed in the existentialist approaches, Heideggerian authenticity adds the further element that these are not means to ends, but are ways of being, ways of becoming the person I am and will be; they are valuable in themselves as constitutive elements of my identity. As such, we are answerable for our choices, not merely their consequences. This also makes us responsible for our self-deceptions--if we are authentic, if we own up to our thrownness, projecting, and fallenness, we will hold ourselves accountable for what we are and will not transfer blame to das Man. With a better grasp of and more accountability for our possibilities, we can have a truer understanding of ourselves.

Second, Heidegger's understanding of authentic Dasein allows us to see what role moral reflection plays in our self-understanding. Dasein's being is partially constituted by our being thrown into a culture that provides the basic possibilities of being that we can realize in our lives. As we do so we get a sense of what is valuable to the community, we become 'attuned' to what the community values as the Good (borrowing again from Taylor). This attunement in part constitutes how the world and the beings within it appear--our elders appear as people worthy of respect, certain places (Churches, temples, or gardens) appear as holy spaces, articles of clothing appear as either the latest fad or 'so last year,' etc. As constitutive aspects of my being, these attunements are an important facet of who and what I am--I am respectful, I am reverent, I am fashionable. As positive constituents of my identity, reflection on these values/attunements is itself valuable, not because it leads to some useful result, but because it improves our vision of ourselves.

Heidegger would have us understand, though, that the values appropriated from our fallenness and past das Mans are products of history--the Enlightenment das Man, the humanistic das Man, the Puritan das Man, the Mormon/Catholic/Buddhist das Man etc.--which have strongly influenced 'what one does' and 'what one is': an individual with God-given rights, that one should have their own opinions on matters, that women have their place in raising children. Our moral sense (our moral attunement) is shaped by these historical contingencies. In authenticity we enact a new relationship with these historical facts, we see their contingency and realize that there are other possible attunements (though we may not know what they are at the time). By seeing this contingency, the authentic Dasein "chooses its hero" (B&T 437/H385), it chooses its authorities whereby it can develop its basic attunements to beings. In being authentic, Dasein does not transcend das Man and thereby find its morality 'within' its 'inner self' nor 'without' itself in transcendent reason, but rather immerses itself in its context and chooses its authorities, either within its own tradition or finding new traditions. By finding exemplary stories and heroes/figures, Dasein finds a ground on which to find and choose its possibilities by relating to its history, the history of its culture, and perhaps in interacting with new cultures/attunements. As said earlier, any new culture/attunement that one discovers does not negate Dasein's thrownness, which continues to inform the Dasein's life, but it does establish a more genuine relationship between Dasein and its thrownness.

Third, authenticity further grounds our essential relationship with others. As essentially being-with (mi-Da-sein) and being inevitably thrown into a culture, authenticity helps us see better the connection between the Other and ourselves, of our fates being intertwined. Being human is not being alone or being only contingently related to others, but being Dasein, having a 'there' that is also inhabited by the Other whom we interact with; and how we interact with them is essentially constitutive for our being, as well as theirs. The authentic understanding that being human is essentially a being-with that also partially provides a context, a Da for the creation of the Other's being, by necessity introduces an ethical element. Because of this, we no longer see freedom as freedom from constraints, but rather as freedom for beings and the Other. As stated above, this is seen better in Heidegger's later thought and in Levinas where we are essentially responsible for the Other, be it being or another Dasein. Our freedom expresses itself in freedom for beings and the Other, from which we are able to constitute our being/identity; it is only against this background that we can also be free from things.

Heidegger's language of "loyalty" and "authority" shows that his concept of authentic freedom, far from pointing to some existentialist conception of "terrible freedom," as designed to bring out the role of those bedrock loyalties and commitments that already inhabit our lives, though often in a form distorted by ontological individualism. (235-236)
Fourth, authenticity can "clarify and expand the conception, found in certain recent theorists, of therapy as the renarrativizing of a person's life story" (236). As actions and thoughts only make sense within a context, authenticity can assist in gaining further clarity on that context and the dominant narratives that we have inherited from it. By finding continuity between disparate events in one's life through understanding the contexts in which they occurred, including the dominant values/attunements within those context, one is better situated to understand one's past, find resolution, and reinterpret one's identity. Seeing the continuity, for example, between mom's alcoholism, dad's temper and occasional beatings of mother and self, the dominant narratives and attunements found in one's culture and home, and one's current feelings of inadequacy, one may see the historically contingent nature of one's own narratives and find other narratives or grounds for narratives that engender different meanings than the inadequacies one feels. It could be argued that one primary reason that we see our current narrative with its inherent attunements as 'the only game in town,' that we are stuck, that we are 'in a rut,' that we 'can't escape from our inadequacies' is because we cannot see any other context/attunement within which to interpret the events. The therapist, here, will help guide their patient to see better his inherited values and attunements for what they are--contingent historical creations that might be distorting their understanding of themselves more than bringing it to light. Guignon is quick to point out that this narrative approach has a necessary moral element--protagonists, antagonists, suffering, injustices, lessons learned, etc. all are integral to a plot; they are what give the story meaning and life. Every narrative emerges from a world with its norms and practices; as such, narrative therapy must engender moral reflection, the reflections that shape how the world appears.

Guignon concludes with the following:

We began by looking at how naturalistic and third-force psychotherapy theories tend to presuppose a picture of the self as an essentially isolated individual in a morally neutral, objectified universe. What is troubling about such theories is the possibility that their picture of the self might be a major source of the emotional and behavioral problems that many people bring to therapists today. If this is so, then modern therapy risks perpetuating the problem in the cure. Heidegger's conception of authenticity, in contrast, can help us make sense of dimensions of therapeutic practice not fully accounted for in most forms of theorizing. Its value lies not in offering recipes for new types of technique, but in providing a basis for understanding our embeddedness in a wider context of meaning, the role of constraints in genuine freedom, and the fundamental role of moral commitments in our ability to be humans in any meaningful sense. In this way it provides a counterweight to conventional therapeutic ideals of effective behavior and self-actualization, and it can open up therapeutic practice to an understanding of life that is left unintelligible by prevailing theories. (236-237)
After all is said and done, I do believe that Guignon has shown a nacent ethics in Heidegger's conception of authenticity. Not an ethics of categorical imperatives or laws, but of man's essential relationship with and responsibility for the Other and being. I think bringing Levinas into the picture, as well as aspects of Heidegger's later thought, is particularly informative--one constitutive facet of Dasein's being is its responsibility to the Other and being, the latter being seen in the dangers of technology. By wallowing in the world of das Man where our temporal constitution is covered over, and with it a realization of our ontological relationship to our past, present, and future, this essential being-with is forgotten in the wake of the vague 'one.' By authentically taking up our possibilities, with its clearer understanding of this essential relationship, ethics is a necessary consequence.



Blogger Moviegoer said...

Whew, long, enjoyable post man! :)

For another perspective on integrating Heidegger with psycho-therapy, check out Hans Loewald. Loewald actually studied with Heidegger for a bit before turning to psycho-analysis. Unlike the oft-lampooned target, American ego psychology, Loewald's quite cognizant of the drawbacks and deadends involved in the subject-object epistomology/ontology that the early Heidegger was at pains to critique.

You'd probably also enjoy seeing Jonathan Lear's take on these issues (Winnicott might even be helpful here too).

Both Loewald and Lear propose that psycho-analysis does, in fact, incorporate a positive ethic implicity, but neither go the way of existentialist psycho-therapy. Lear's book "Open Minded" is a good place to start, but his "Therapeutic Action: An Earnest Plea for Irony" really lays out his defense of how psycho-analysis can function to heal suffering souls. In short, I think what you'll find is that this "fifth camp" of psycho-analysis (i.e., not American ego psychology, existentialist, Klienian object-relations or Lacan) nicely appropriates most of the Heideggerian insights you mentioned above by giving a genetic account of the psyche requiring something like love and ethics to bring about the existence of Dasein.

I guess I'd finally like to comment on the kind of psycho-therapy that I see a lot of philosophers reacting too, the kind of psycho-therapy that's morally relative without grounding (i.e., "morals are thought of either as the concern of the patient herself or in terms of whatever dominant 'self-evident' norms are generally accepted by the professional community"). My actual experience with practicing clinicians is that this is just a straw-man - perhaps a view cultivated because of the peculiar history of American ego psychology, and perhaps a view cultivated because of the queer relationship between clinical practice and psycho-analytic meta-psychology (for other therapeutic practices, like cognitive behavioralism, I have no comment). Therapists such as Thomas Ogden and Steven Mitchell offer nice iconoclastic contrasts to the popular 50s psycho-analyst stereotype who was disconnected with his patient's struggles and whose basic aim was to transform drives into socially hospitible compromises.


Mr. Goer

1:49 PM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Do you like the Cambridge Companion to Heidegger Kevin? I have to admit that I found it one of the worst in the series. Some articles (such as Rorty's) seem almost inexplicably included. It seems to leave out some big areas while unduly emphasizing on others. Overall I'm not sure it's that helpful either. I was very disappointed I know.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Oh, regarding psychology, one should note that Richardson who wrote the famous book on Heidegger's turn is also a psychiastrist as I recall.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Kevin Winters said...


I think that Guignon was critiquing the generally espoused methodology of naturalistic psychoanalysis. From what I've read thus far, these are actually significant breaks from Freud's own theories where an at least implicit teleology is present. I think that Ricoeur's analysis of Freud is useful in this regard, showing both his archaic and telic elements. Naturally, how this methodology is actually used in practice will be a different story; there will always be mavericks or those who are perhaps unconsciously acting contrary to their methodology (it wouldn't be the first time this has happened in any discipline).

As for the others you've named, I'll admit that I haven't heard of any of them. Do you have any good online introductory material on their thought (can't afford non-school related books at the moment)?

3:23 PM  
Blogger Kevin Winters said...


Yes, in general I like it. I've enjoyed Frede's "The Question of Being: Heidegger's Project" and especially Thomas Sheehan's "Reading a Life: Heidegger and Hard Times," which ends up being a good short biography on Heidegger's life and thought. I would particularly suggest Taylor and Dreyfus' papers in that volume. Beyond that, I'm not so sure about the other contributors/papers, but I think the volume is worth it for at least those 4 essays.

I would, however, agree on Rorty's paper. For what little I've read, I don't care much for Rorty; he seems to fundamentally misunderstand Heidegger, like a modern-day non-psychological Sartre, and ends up being a warmed over modernist than any kind of Heideggerian. In the end he does more damage to Heidegger's case than good. Have you ever read Guignon's "On Saving Heidegger from Rorty," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 46/3 (1986), 401-417? It's an interesting piece.

Beyond that, though, I've been thoroughly enjoying the festschrifts for Dreyfus, Heidegger, Authenticity, and Modernity and Heidegger, Coping, and Cognitive Science. Admittedly I first got the volumes primarily for the second volume, but have enjoyed the first volume much more the last week or so. The second volume, in fact, is what got me interested in learning more about authenticity, hence my beginning with Guignon's essay in Cambridge Companion.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

I'll have to go back and reread it. I just recall that it just didn't cover the breadth or terminology that other texts in the series did. I have several in the series - mainly as refreshers for various concepts of major philosophers I've encountered. I just don't recall this book being good for that. Although as I recall it does a good job on the intellectual history as well as the Nazi issue. But the focus as I recall was in applied Heidegger rather than understanding Heidegger's notions in themselves.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Moviegoer said...

Kevin, I wish I could give some good online references, but unfortunately only one pops to mind: Psyche Matters. They've got a lot of great papers on there, though a quick scan by myself didn't reveal any by Lear or Loewald. Ogden has one on there about Winnicott that might interest you. Winnicott's an interesting figure, I think, because he's conversant with Lacan and Foucault, and other philosophical figures (same as Bion, who kept pace with Wittengenstein's researches).

My big recommendation would be to get a library card for the closest big university near you. For instance, even though I go to a small liberal arts college out here in California, I make sure to get access to my local UC library. Not only does that give me great selections, but I can access journals freely (you'll be able to find a lot of great papers by Loewald in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis or its historical predecessors.

If nothing else, your local university library will have some of Lear's books. Check them out, they're a great treat.

12:09 PM  
Blogger KW213 said...

Hi Kevin,
I have a problem with this argument: "What is altered in an authentic existence is not necessarily the specific actions that you perform; thus, to be authentic does not necessarily mean a change in behavior or practice. Rather, what is changed is how you relate to your own temporality, to your own possibilities." What I'm confused about here is simply this: If authenticity is an existentiell ability to be that for some reason transparently exhibits orginary temporality, and if all behavior is publicly intelligible via das man, then wouldn't it be the case that an authentic agent will behave in a way that distinguishes itself from Das Man's way of doing things? Surely, authenticity involves a change of behavior or for that matter, an active changing of the norms that govern one's activities

2:10 PM  
Blogger Kevin Winters said...


First off, welcome to the blog (particularly Heideggerian blogs; I wish you well as you seem to be starting your own).

Second, I don't see why different actions are needed in an authentic existence (though they can be), though that is a common (mis)understanding. Being authentic is simply making something your own (the eigen of eigentlich) rather than merely doing something because that is what one (das Man) does. For example, how would I authentically eat with a fork? How would such an authentic eating differ in its general behavior, if you are correct? To be authentic in such an endeavor is to make it my own: I realize that eating with a fork (and all the significations with which it is tied) is not the only way to eat (i.e. coming to grips with Being and Time's notion of "nothing"), yet I eat it because that is what I do, not because that is what one does.

Authenticity may involve a change in behavior in any given sphere, but it need not do so.

7:58 AM  
Blogger KW213 said...

Thanks for the reply Kevin. I guess I was making my comment in light of my understanding of Dreyfus' thesis, namely that Das Man is the source of intelligibility and that if an authentic action is to count as intelligible at all, it must for that matter engender an existentiell modification of Das Man (see last page of Das Man chapter). And I take this to mean, that such action's must be intelligble as a positive deviation from the social norms that governs our ability to be a soccial role in our practices. You say however that "being authentic is simply making something your own (the eigen of eigentlich) rather than merely doing something because that is what one (das Man) does." But again, supposing that Dreyfus is right and that all actions are publicly intelligible, how for that matter, would "making something your own" be intelligble and distinguishible from "doing something as 'one' does" in any coping situation? By the way... I very much enjoy your blog.

4:11 PM  
Blogger KW213 said...

Also Kevin, one more comment, I don't really know what to say about activities that require a low level of skill like brushing your teeth or eating with a fork. But then again, I also don't think it is possible for us to understand ourselves in terms of these practices mainly because they can't be treated as a possible identity (i.e. for-th-sake-of-which: self-defining activities that provide focus, point, resonance to an agent's various activiites) that an agent can take up and define himself in terms of. But being a football player is a practice that for cultural reasons we can take up as a f-s-o-w. Now in this more complex practice, one that requires a higher level of skill, it could surely be the case that I can authentically be a football player by not doing what one does, but by rather innovating the way the game is played, and this requires a positive deviation from the norms.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Heidegger authenticity is not defined as merely something I do myself, independently of the 'they'. It rather involves me in taking awareness of how I am and where I am and whence I came and where I am going. It is in other words, to be in time and achieve what he calls the moment of vision. This is precisely the objective of existential therapy. See the Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis or the work of Emmy van Deurzen.

2:06 PM  

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