Tag Archives: ontology

History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

It is my pleasure to direct AHP readers to a just released special issue of History of the Human Science on Psychology and its Publics, guest edited by Michael Pettit and myself. The issue includes articles tackling a diverse array of topics on psychology’s relationship with the public, including: the public psychology of sentimentalism and the guillotine during the French Revolution; the construction of an attitudinal public in concert with the development of questionnaires; the dissemination of Albert Ellis’s rational therapy via popular media forms; the public’s interaction with psychological ideas via the graphic novel Watchmen and its queer history; the function of sexual assault surveys in structuring rape’s ontology and politicizing rape as a social issue; and consideration of the ontology of the public through the lens of deliberative public opinion. Thanks to all our contributors for their wonderful and thought provoking work!

In advance of the issue’s release I was also interviewed about the rationale and aims of the special issue by History of the Human Sciences editor-in-chief Felicity Callard. Read that interview in full here.

Full titles, authors, and abstracts for the pieces in the special issue follow below.

“Psychology and its publics,” by Michael Pettit and Jacy L. Young. Abstract:

This paper introduces the special issue dedicated to ‘Psychology and its Publics’. The question of the relationship between psychologists and the wider public has been a central matter of concern to the historiography of psychology. Where critical historians tend to assume a pliant audience, eager to adopt psychological categories, psychologists themselves often complain about the public misunderstanding of them. Ironically, both accounts share a flattened understanding of the public. We turn to research on the public understanding of science (PUS), the public engagement with science (PES) and communications studies to develop a rich account of the circuitry that ties together psychological experts and their subjects.

“The unfailing machine: Mechanical arts, sentimental publics and the guillotine in revolutionary France,” by Edward Jones-Imhotep. Abstract:

This article explores how the pre-eminent public psychology of the French Revolution – sentimentalism – shaped the necessity, understanding and construction of its most iconic public machine. The guillotine provided a solution to the problem of public executions in an age of both sentiment and reason. It was designed to rationalize punishment and make it more humane; but it was also designed to guard against the psychological effects of older, more variable and unpredictable methods of public execution on a sentimental public. That public, contemporaries argued, required executions performed by an unfailing technology. Rather than focus on the role of the guillotine after 1793, the article explores how the implacable mechanical action that helped produce the Reign of Terror and multiply the cadavers of medical science was demanded by the guillotine’s origins as a sentimental machine.

“Numbering the mind: Questionnaires and the attitudinal public,” by Jacy L. Young. Abstract: Continue reading History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

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UCL/BPS Talk July 11th: Martyn Pickersgill “On Infrastructure and Ontology”

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk in the Summer term. On Monday July 11th Martyn Pickersgill (right) will be speaking on ‘On infrastructure and ontology: Shifting dynamics of knowledge production and application in mental health.’ Details follow below.

Monday 11th July
Dr Martyn Pickersgill (Usher Institute for Population Health Studies and Informatics, Edinburgh Medical School): ‘On infrastructure and ontology: Shifting dynamics of knowledge production and application in mental health’

Infrastructures proliferate within mental health. Services are developed and instantiated both through and as particular socio-material configurations. These are underpinned by diverse kinds of infrastructure, as well as serving as the underpinning for therapeutic encounters. The knowledge drawn upon, ignored or un-encountered by psychological therapists is itself produced through a range of infrastructural arrangements, which are impacted and directed by research funders in varying ways. In this talk, I take considerations of infrastructure as a departure point for discussing two Wellcome Trust-funded projects on the sociology of mental health. The first represents an analysis of the social dimensions of initiatives to enhance access to psychological therapy in England and Scotland; the second is a new study interrogating innovation in psychiatric diagnosis across the US and the UK. I will discuss the forms of normativity that (are claimed to) structure both of the cases I explore, and consider the infrastructural arrangements my respondents imagine and enact in response to these. In turn, I want to reflect on what (drives to develop) infrastructures do to the ontologies of pathologies, patients and professionals working in mental health research and practice.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London

Time: 6-7:30pm

Directions: From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place.  After fifty metres, you will find Foser Court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right.  The common room is straight ahead.

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Special Issue of Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology on existential psychotherapy

Those in our readership oriented towards the intersection of therapy and philosophy will be quite keen on the June 2016 issue of Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology because of its theme, existential psychotherapy. The guest editor is Duff Waring.  The format taken is featured articles, two commentaries per and then a response from the article authors:


The Lost Language of Being: Ontology’s Perilous Destiny in Existential Psychotherapy. By Erik Craig

Abstract: This article invites conversation regarding what is seen as a pivotal problem in existential psychotherapy today: the loss of its language of being, its foundational understanding of ontology, Being, and the human being, Dasein. The article begins by introducing the disciplinary challenges of being an existential psychotherapist. This is followed by a systematic, multiperspectival discussion of ontology and its language of being and the challenges an ‘ontological eye’ presents for the theory and practice of existential psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy. Historical and cultural factors contributing to America’s conceptual and clinical dispersity and disarray in existential thought and practice are summarized before presenting a brief overview of existential psychotherapy’s present standing, especially with respect to its prospects for developing a regional ontological understanding of the human as human and as a whole. 


Whither Existential Psychotherapy? By James Phillips

Psychotherapy’s Ontic–Ontological Divide: Going Beyond the Hyphen. By René J. Muller

 Response by Erik Craig:  Distinguishing Apples From Trees


Abstract: This article attempts to illustrate how an existential ontology has a great deal to offer to psychotherapists. Because this complex interaction may often be difficult to see, three ways in which such philosophical work has been applicable and enriching in the context of a particular psychotherapy practice are presented. These include a) the use of existential themes and concepts in psychotherapy, including the notions of existential guilt, existential anxiety, and bad faith, b) the argument that an existential ontology provides a more suitable philosophical grounding for psychotherapeutic theories and practices, one which better describes the life-world, experiential phenomena in question, and c) the idea that an existential version of the mental status examination, centered around six key dimensions of human experience (derived from an existential ontology) can provide us with a more in-depth understanding of, and better description of, an individual’s experiential world.


Does a Philosophical Grounding in an Existential Ontology Make for a Better Psychotherapist? By Morris N. Eagle
The Personal Dimension to Ontology. By M. Guy Thompson


Abstract: Heidegger’s existential ontology has greatly influenced existential psychiatry and psychotherapy, yet opinions about the psychotherapeutic utility of an ontological perspective remain divided, especially in light of Heidegger’s negative reactions to misappropriation of his ontological analysis. The present discussion questions the universality of existential ontology, not to do away with it, but, rather, to ‘rehabilitate’ Binswanger’s purported ‘mistaken’ take on ontology and his much critiqued notion of “world-design” with Merleau-Ponty’s ideas of the ontological relevance of “emblems of Being.” The concept of world-design is considered here as a clinically illuminating notion that warrants revision and expansion, which I attempt with the concept of implicit world-projection and its relation to emblems of Being. This reformulation is intended to capture the ontologically world-defining meaning horizon and its relationship to the varying degrees of ontological security and insecurity, ontological robustness, sensitivity, and oversensitivity. This revised notion of emblematic implicit world-projection reaches beyond the confines of the pathological and can be situated within the larger context of relational theorizing. It can also serve as a bridging concept to contemporary reformulations of the unconscious as the “implicit.”


Existential-Ontological Psychotherapy: Attuning to How Being Is at Issue. By Kym Maclaren
Why Ontologize? By Melvin Woody
Response by Angelica M. D. Tratter: Ontological Inquiry and Emblematic Meanings of Life





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