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Humanistic Ethics

  • Lawrence Wilde

Abstract

Psychoanalysis, according to Fromm, can operate from two different conceptions of the aim of therapy, either that of “social adjustment” or “cure of the soul.”1 The first approach seeks primarily to address the symptoms of neurosis and to help the patient to act like the majority of people in his or her culture. For Fromm, as a radical critic of the prevailing culture, adjustment could only reduce the excessive suffering of the neurotic to the average levels inherent in conforming with an alienated reality. In contrast to this Fromm argues that it is necessary to operate from the standpoint of universal human norms, from which the therapist can help the patient to achieve optimal development of his or her potential and the realization of his or her authentic individuality.2 Fromm is convinced that to know what is good for a person it is necessary to study our human nature. This requires the humanist psychoanalyst to specify those universal norms, and Fromm does this in Man For Himself (1947), which as we noted in chapter one, carries the subtitle An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics. Here he makes an important advance in his social theory by advocating a form of virtue or character ethics decades before it found a renewed interest in philosophical circles. In this book, his explication of the various character orientations gives new depth to his social psychology, and the original concept of the marketing character provides a means for understanding the process of affluent alienation, which is central to his later work. Above all, however, the affirmation of a humanistic ethics provides the normative foundation for all his later work.

Keywords

Human Nature Religious Thought Human Essence Moral Precept Human Solidarity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978), chapter four.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    See Daniel Statman (ed.), Ethics: A Critical Reader (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997)Google Scholar
  3. Roger Crisp and Michael Slote (eds.), Virtue Ethics (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997)Google Scholar
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  5. 6.
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  6. 8.
    Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom (New York: Henry Holt, 1994), p. 114.Google Scholar
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    Erich Fromm, Man For Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), p. 7.Google Scholar
  8. 25.
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  9. 32.
    Lawrence Wilde (ed.), Introduction to Wilde, Marxism’s Ethical Thinkers (New York & Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  12. 44.
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  14. 49.
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    Fromm, On Being Human, p. 170. Fromm is quoting Bloch’s Atheism in Christianity (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972). Bloch’s work on religion offers many similarities to Fromm’s—see Vincent Geoghegan, Ernst Bloch (New York and London, 1996), chapter 3.Google Scholar
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    Erich Fromm, The Crisis of Psychoanalysis (New York: Holt, Rienhart and Winston, 1970), pp. 33–35Google Scholar
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  27. 121.
    Seyla Benhabib, Critique, Norm and Utopia: A Study of the Foundations of Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), pp. 132–133— see also p. 57 and 69.Google Scholar
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    Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 36.Google Scholar

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© Lawrence Wilde 2004

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  • Lawrence Wilde

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