Sunday 1 January 2023

Taormina 1963. Heidegger and Boss conversations 60 years on. Inner Circle Seminar 284 (27 August 2023)


Taormina 1963

Martin Heidegger and Medard Boss

Conversations on Freud and Daseinsanalysis

A revaluation 60 years on

Anthony Stadlen

conducts by Zoom

Inner Circle Seminar No. 284

Sunday 27 August 2023

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Garden, San Domenico, Taormina

Martin Heidegger  Medard Boss
on the Feldweg south of
Heidegger’s birthplace, Meßkirch
Teatro antico, Taormina

Martin Heidegger            Medard Boss
s home, Zollikon
We have been exploring for some years, in addition to the reports of the seminars themselves, the discussions between the philosopher Martin Heidegger and his pupil the Daseinsanalyst Medard Boss which were reported in the book Zollikon Seminars as the background to Heidegger’s 1959-1969 seminars in Boss’s Zollikon home. We have in particular devoted several Inner Circle Seminars to their conversations when on holiday with their wives in Taormina, Sicily, in April 1963, sixty years ago. We continue studying these Taormina conversations today.
Before the journey Heidegger wrote to Boss that he had never stayed in such a hotel (San Domenico), and checked with him what suits would be appropriate to wear. He drew the line at ‘shlepping an irksome hat, and presumed that his Basque beret would be acceptable.

The following are just three examples of the many topics discussed in these enthralling conversations: 

1.) According to Boss, some of Sigmund Freud’s terminology made Heidegger feel physically ill. Nevertheless, in these conversations, Heidegger in many ways, contrary to what is generally supposed, confirmed Freud’s discoveries of transference, repression, projection, etc. – but as modes of what Heidegger called ‘ecstatic-intentional world-relationship’, rather than as concepts of what Freud, thinking in terms of natural science, called ‘metapsychology’.

2.) The idea of a golden mountain’ had been introduced into philosophy by David Hume in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (173940, Vol. I, Part 1):

When we think of a golden mountain, we only conjoin two consistent ideas, gold, and mountain, with which we were formerly acquainted.  

Heidegger in Taormina alluded to Humes notion, but in a way utterly at odds with confused current thinking by psychotherapists eager to be validated by neuroscience, as follows (translation by A. Stadlen, 2023):
I do not imagine a golden mountain within my consciousness or within my brain, but rather within a world, within a landscape, which in turn is again related to the world in which I exist bodily.                                 

3.) It is often claimed that Heidegger virtually never talked or wrote, at least  philosophically, about sex or sexual difference. An exception is his pondering, in a 1953 essay, Georg Trakl: Eine Erörterung seines Gedichtes’ (‘Georg Trakl: An Elucidation of his Poetry’), why the poet Trakl, in his poem Abendländisches Lied (Occidental Song)emphasised the ‘ein’ (one) in ‘E i n Geschlecht’, the only instance iTrakl’s entire poetical oeuvre where he emphasises a word by spacing its letters. Geschlecht can mean many things, only one of which is ‘sex’. Heidegger’s discussion of Trakl’s possible meaning was discussed at great length by Jacques Derrida in his essays Geschlecht 1 ,2, 3, and 4and both Heideggers and Derridas discussions were further discussed by David Farrell Krell in his book Phantoms of the Other: Four Generations of Derridas Geschlecht.

But in these conversations during their 1963 Taormina holiday Heidegger and Boss appear not to have debated the possible recondite meaning of one sex explored in Heideggers 1953 essay and ruminated on by Derrida and Krell. Instead, they discussed enthusiastically, in traditional man-to-man manner, the joys of differently-sexed Dasein and how to enhance them by Daseinsanalysis.
In the following exchange Heidegger imagines himself rather than Boss as the Daseinsanalyst retuning’ a woman patient of Bossfor the man-essence, which fulfils for her her woman-essence’ (translation by A. Stadlen, 2023):
She [Boss’s ‘test case’ Regula Zürcherhas become free for a joyful being-able-to-be-attuned. [...] The joyful being-able-to-be-attuned becomes attainable and attained through his presence (the man’s). [...] At the time of the hysterical unfreedom of this patient the fundamental attunement of this woman was indeed anxiety, which overpowered the whole Dasein of the patient; even if she could still be joyful in relation to her young womanly playmates. [...] The human relationships to the playmates were not the authentic [eigentlich] and essential [wesentlich] world-relationship of the patient as woman [...] This was always already the relation to the man.

What does my question mean therapeutically: How is it that you can always only encounter the manly essence [männliche Wesen] as something dangerous?”?

[...] Through such questioning [...] I retune the woman to the man-essence [Mann-Wesen][...] Through this she can become freer for a man, for the man-essence, which fulfils for her her woman-essence [Frau-Wesen][...] 

Why has it still been so impossible for all psychologists, Freud included, to determine the essence of manhood [Männlichkeit] and womanhood [Weiblichkeit]?

‘That comes from the innate essence-blindness [Wesensblindheitof the human being.                                         

Although Wesen’ is translated here as essence’, this can be misunderstood as some kind of reification. As Heidegger uses the word over half a century he intends it to convey something like essencing, or unfolding essencing’.  Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly, in their translation of Heideggerbook Beiträge zur Philosophie (Zum Ereignis), translate Wesen’ as essential sway’.


Today, sixty years on, we continue to review these lively, often groundbreaking, conversations between Heidegger and Boss as a whole. They are of fundamental importance for existential therapists, Daseinsanalysts, psychoanalysts, and psychotherapists of any persuasion or none.
There is, of course, much that therapists today may criticise, and even make fun of, in what Heidegger and Boss say.
Heidegger’s remarks, in example (1) above, on psychoanalytic concepts such as ‘projection’, ‘introjection’, and even forgetting, seem at times surprisingly naive and dogmatic, in a way that he and Boss are mistakenly attributing to Freud. However, the idea of understanding these concepts phenomenologically as ‘ecstatic-intentional world-relationship’ is revolutionary.
In example (2), again, if psychotherapists were to take seriously what Heidegger is trying to help them see here, through the example of the golden mountain, their thinking and practice could be revolutionised.    
The conversation reported above in example (3) on man-woman relationships is particularly unfashionable nowadays, and Alice Holzhey has ridiculed it. But does it not describe one very common human experience? We shall look at this seriously.
We shall also continue to confront Bosss and Heideggers preoccupations of 1963 with the exactly contemporary revolutionary work of Gregory Bateson, Thomas Szasz, R. D. Laing, and Aaron Esterson. There is no discussion by Heidegger and Boss of the myth of mental illness, or of mystification, invalidation, and double bind. This is unfortunate, as Heidegger had raised the question Is the madman mentally ill?’, and even answered with a firm No’, in his essay of 1953 mentioned above, ten years earlier, and seven years before Szasz’s paper The Myth of Mental Illness (1960), as we shall see in Inner Circle Seminar No. 289 on 19 November 2023. 
The teaching and discussion of Daseinsanalysis often falls into uncritical idealisation of its founding figures. Our seminars can hardly be accused of this. We shall continue to explore Heideggers avoidance of dialectic – of how people actually talk to each other in families – and Bosss collusion with Heidegger in this respect. We shall continue to show how Daseinsanalysis can become Diahermeneutics, to adopt a word Heidegger once coined as long ago as 1919, but never repeated.
But this seminar will, it is hoped, demonstrate that, when their weaker aspects are acknowledged, the high points of these Taormina conversations are very high indeed, and should remain, or rather become, an indispensable part of the general knowledge of a competent psychotherapist today. There is little sign that psychotherapists in general have even heard of them. But they may play their part in revolutionising a therapist’s practice and thinking. 
You are warmly invited to join our exploration.

This will be an online seminar, using Zoom.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £140, others £175 (reductions for combinations of seminars); some bursaries; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 7809 433250

For further information on seminars, visit:

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 universities.

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