"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, November 22, 2019

Neuropsychiatry, Philosophy, and Theology Meet in a Bar...

In my book Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power, I discuss one of Paul Ricoeur's major books, Freud and Philosophy. That book, which originated as the Terry Lectures at Yale almost half a century ago, stands as one of the most perceptive and important engagements of Freud by any Christian thinker in the last century. Ricoeur saw with more piercing insight than most that Freud, far from being an enemy of Christian faith, is one of its most important allies in the battle against illusion and idolatry (a point Adam Phillips has also recognized).

I'm also working on a long essay in which I draw on one of Ricoeur's last works, Memory, History, Forgetting. Though dense, this and all his books are always worth working your way through, not least for his ranging far and wide, and without apology, across disciplinary frontiers, including psychology, history, philosophy, and theology. Though ostensibly a Protestant, he ranges across Catholic theology very easily, and has often been discussed by Catholic theologians and mentioned even in recent papal encyclicals. Anyone dealing with modern hermeneutics will have come across Ricoeur and the need to grapple with his many books.

It is with interest, then, that I came across notice of a recent publication by M.T.H. Wong, a neuropsychiatrist: Ricoeur and the Third Discourse of the Person: From Philosophy and Neuroscience to Psychiatry and Theology (Lexington Books, 2018), 215pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
This book is about the so called “4S” challenge – how does or can or should someone say something to someone about something? This challenge is getting more intense day by day in our contemporary globalized world, increasingly connected by science and technology through telecommunication and all sorts of social media, where people are acutely aware of the diverse views on culture, politics, economics, religion, ethics, education, physical health and mental wellbeing, which are very often in conflicts with each other.
This book arises from the reading of the dialogue between two internationally renowned and respected French scholars, Jean-Pierre Changeux and Paul Ricoeur, What Makes Us Think? A Neuroscientist and a Philosopher Argue about Ethics, Human Nature, and the Brain, which explores where science and philosophy meet, and whether there is a place for religion in the 21st century. This book develops on the ideas Ricoeur raised in the dialogue about the need for “digging deeper” and a “third discourse” as a way forward to improve dialogues between competing worldviews and ideologies. It attempts to formulate a “third discourse” (as distinct from ordinary language as “first discourse” and various scientific or professional/specialist languages as “second discourse”) to address the burning issue of fragmentation of the person through overcoming the alienations between established discourses of philosophy, science and theology, without doing injustice to the unique and indispensable contributions of each of these discourses. It argues that such a “third discourse” has to go beyond dualism and reductionism. To achieve that, this new way of talking about the lived experience of the person is going to take the form of a non-reductive correlative multilayered discourse that has the capacity to, as expressed in the language of the hermeneutics of Ricoeur, “explain more in order to understand better.”

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