This is the first book of its kind to offer a sustained critique of contemporary psychoanalytic thought favoring relational, postmodern, and intersubjective perspectives, which largely define American psychoanalysis today. Conundrums turns an eye toward the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary theory; its theoretical relation to traditional psychoanalytic thought; clinical implications for therapeutic practice; political and ethical ramifications of contemporary praxis; and its intersection with points of consilience that emerge from these traditions. Central arguments and criticisms advanced throughout the book focus on operationally defining the key tenets of contemporary perspectives; the seduction and ambiguity of postmodernism; the question of selfhood and agency; illegitimate attacks on classical psychoanalysis; the role of therapeutic excess; contemporary psychoanalytic politics; and the question of consilience between psychoanalysis as a science versus psychoanalysis as part of the humanities. The historical criticisms against psychoanalysis are further explored in the context of the current philosophical-scientific binary that preoccupies the field.
Table of Contents
Philosophical Presuppositions of Relational Psychoanalysis. The Problem with Postmodernism. Illegitimate Attacks on Classical Psychoanalysis. Therapeutic Excess. Contemporary Politics. Psychoanalysis and its Critics. Approaching Consilience.
"This extraordinary work by one of the most scholarly psychoanalytic thinkers of our time is a welcome and much-needed reappraisal of the relational perspective in contemporary psychoanalysis. Mills brings his rich philosophical background to bear in this detailed and illuminating critique of both the pros and cons of relational psychoanalysis that will be invaluable to those who embrace the contemporary perspective as well as those who find some of its tenets wanting. This is by far the best and most original book of its kind. Essential reading!" - M. Guy Thompson, Ph.D., Supervising Analyst, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, and author, The Ethic of Honesty (Rodopi, 2003)
"Critique of psychoanalysis, coming from the usual suspects, is a bit of a bore. Coming from the inside by a clinician who is also an academic, is something completely different. History testifies to the fact that there is a rather annoying tradition of burning these critics at the stake. To make things even worse, Mills denudes the philosophical premises of contemporary psychoanalysis (relational, intersubjective, and postmodern) with great erudition. The net result is that the reader receives an insightful view into the psychoanalytic conundrum, as well as arguments against (e.g., Grunbaum's critique, psychoanalytic authoritarianism, and sectism). The book ends with a further elaboration of a systematic psychoanalytic metaphysics, explaining how the unconscious generates mind. Psychoanalysis has a future as long as there are colleagues like Jon Mills." - Paul Verhaeghe, Head of the Department of Psychoanalysis, University of Ghent, Belgium, and author, On Being Normal and Other Disorders (Other Press, 2004)
"In this text, Mills offers his readers a broad and deep analysis of the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary relational psychoanalysis. While appreciating the many creative contributions relational thought has made to clinical practice, the author offers a probing critique of some of the leading relational authors. Such critiques, I believe, can enrich psychoanalysis by promoting an ongoing dialogue, thereby deepening awareness, among practitioners, of their theoretical models. Mills' exposition of Freud's object relations theory is one of the best I have read in years." - Gerald J. Gargiulo, Ph.D., author, Psyche, Self and Soul (Wiley, 2005) and Broken Fathers/Broken Sons (Rodopi, 2008)
"Jon Mills makes admirable use of his double training as philosopher and practicing psychoanalyst in Conundrums. In this book, he discusses both the improvements and the deficiencies of contemporary relational psychoanalysis, both on the basis of theory and his clinical experience. Thus he praises the more personal, authentic, humane, and reciprocal dimension of psychoanalysis as argued for by interpersonal psychoanalysis, as opposed to some previous theoreticians who argued for a rigid interpretation of neutrality, anonymity, and abstinence. But Mills also argues that relational psychoanalysis overlooks the phenomenon of the patient's own inner life and Freud's discovery of the challenge to each human being to construct his or her own way of dealing with the demands of impulses. A remarkable and compelling book." - Wilfried Ver Eecke, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University, and author, Denial, Negation, and the Forces of the Negative (SUNY Press, 2006)
Jon Mills, Psy.D., Ph.D., ABPP is a philosopher, psychologist, and psychoanalyst. He is a Diplomate in Psychoanalysis and Clinical Psychology with the American Board of Professional Psychology, Fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Psychology, Fellow of the Academy of Psychoanalysis, and is past President and Fellow of the Section on Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Psychology of the Canadian Psychological Association. On the core psychological faculty of the Adler Graduate Professional School in Toronto as well as the editorial board of Psychoanalytic Psychology, he is the editor of two book series as well as the author of 11 books, including Origins: On the Genesis of Psychic Reality (McGill-Queens University Press, 2010), winner of the 2011 Gradiva Award. He maintains a private practice and runs a mental health corporation in Ontario, Canada.