Wednesday 1 January 2014

Laing & Cooper: Reason and Violence (1964). Inner Circle Seminar 201 (16 March 2014)

Jean-Paul Sartre
R. D. Laing   David Cooper

Reason and Violence (1964)
A Decade of Sartre’s Philosophy, 19501960
Genet, Method, Dialectical Reason
50 Years On
Jean Genet

Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 201
Sunday 16 March 2014
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Reason and Violence: A Decade of Sartre’s Philosophy, 1950-1960, by R. D. Laing and David Cooper, with a Foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre, was published in March 1964, 50 years ago this month. The book condensed three of Sartre’s most important works to about a tenth of their considerable length as an aid to Anglophone readers. Questions of Method (1960) and Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) set out to demystify and ‘depass’ the human sciences psychoanalysis, existential analysis, sociology, anthropology, historiography in a wider dialectical synthesis, tracing apparent ‘process’, such as ‘mental mechanism’ or ‘class struggle’, to ‘praxis’, the free intentional individual activity of men and women. Saint Genet, Comedian and Martyr (1952) was Sartre’s monumental attempt to understand the life of one man, Jean Genet orphan, homosexual, thief, prisoner, novelist,  playwright –, in terms of what Sartre maintained was Genet’s ‘fundamental project’, his creative response to his childhood situation.

Reason and Violence is much more than a mere summary of these three texts of Sartre’s. Sartre in his Foreword praised the human approach of Laing’s earlier works and his ‘perfect understanding of the Critique of Dialectical Reason’. Laing’s précis of the Critique is, indeed, in some respects more accurate than the official translation published some years later. But, more than this, Laing and Cooper’s clarification of the relevance of these three works to psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and family analysis makes Reason and Violence an important work in its own right. It provides an existential-phenomenological foundation for psychoanalysis, as well as for the methodology of Laing and Esterson’s Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics (1964), published a month after Reason and Violence, which applied Sartre’s principles to family analysis and  ‘schizophrenia’.

At the same time, there is an ambiguity in the title of Laing and Cooper’s book. Laing defined ‘violence’ as the opposite of ‘love’, and the title implies it is also the opposite of ‘reason’, but Sartre, Laing and Cooper went on to advocate a cult of ‘healing’ violence by the ‘wretched of the earth’. This is alien to Marx’s thinking, for example, as Hannah Arendt observed in On Violence (1969), and as we shall see in a seminar on Frantz Fanon on 16 November 2014. We shall touch on this today, and your contribution to the discussion will be welcome.

Venue:  ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Cost:    Psychotherapy trainees £116, others £145, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857     E-mail:  
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The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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