Determinism – By Marcelo Pakman

This post is also available in: Spanish


You raise the issue of biological and social determinism, which are limiters of freedom, but you give a greater weight to the social one.

Yes, absolutely. I was trying not to make a vacuous claim of freedom, but to see the everyday problem, mostly in psychotherapy, but not only. I was trying to find this spaces for freedom, but inside determinacies which are very powerful. That’s the problem. Otherwise, there would be no problem.

Where does that determinacy come from?

That determinacy emerges, on one hand, from the biological world. We are biology. But it also emerges from the fact that we are immersed in a field of social and political forces, even though they appear to be autonomously mental. One of the great problems in psychotherapy, which I have experienced in a more and more intense way in the 30 years I’ve spent working on it, is the way in which it’s conceived as an autonomous space. As if doing psychotherapy was something that has to do with a mind which is kind of floating. And that has to be with the fact that psychology as a discipline was born while trying to legitimize itself. And how do disciplines become legitimate? By having a clear, definite object; an appropriate methodology, etc. The psychic, the mental, was born as if it was a totally clear and objective object which was in some kind of social context, but that context was studied by those who had a special vocation. It wasn’t something that had to be taken into account. That’s how the “psy” were born, people who could put the social aside, after mentioning it. After saying “of course we are all determined by things like that, but now let’s focus on the mind.” And the mind is not biology, it’s not communication, it’s not only language. And what remains as a mind object is an entity which is totally abstract and disembodied. This is a very serious problem for psychology as a discipline and for psychotherapy as something that came following the tracks of psychology. The problem of this anonymity and abstraction is that it has left very space for the singularity of experience. And when I say singularity I don’t mean individuality. I mean that which eludes the pattern, that which always has a sensual, unique quality; that which is distinctive, original. Without having to subscribe to Hegel’s views, even those of the “psy” who have never heard of Hegel, we are strongly Hegelian, in the sense that we are carrying forward the project of his youth: the abolition of singularity.


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