Thursday, 27 September 2018

"Rethinking Psychoanalysis in Historical Studies" - by SMB Sesan Michael JOHNSON

"Rethinking Psychoanalysis in Historical Studies" - by SMB Sesan Michael JOHNSON

Psychoanalysis was founded by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Freud believed that people could be cured by making conscious their unconscious thoughts and motivations, thus gaining insight. Premised on Freud's disquisition, there have been accentuation in the utility of psychoanalysis in the the works of historians. Following the submission of R.G. Collingwood on causality in history, 'history is the study of causation and human agency'. He further opines that to study human agency; the mind of the human agent is critical to the interpretations of the historian. Collingwood in "Essay on Metaphysics" states inter alias that 'all philosophical questions are really historical'. Thus, historical thinking must involve metaphysical thinking. Therefore, in line with Positivist paradigm; historical knowledge could be reduced to scientific knowledge. So, psychoanalysis in historical studies could be said to be 'quasi-biological interpretation of human action'.

Although psychoanalysis and history have different conceptions of time and causality, extant literature has established the fact that there can be a productive relationship between them. Psychoanalysis can force historians to question their certainty about facts, narratives, and cause. It also can help to reinforce the notion about unconscious motivation on the making of history.
As argued by Collingwood on the instrumentality of metaphysics in historical analysis; uncovering the hidden motives for individuals actions would offer new insights into issues. I think this is collaborated by Frank Manuel's submission that 'psychoanalysis is a historical instrumentality'.

Within the framework of the usability and adaptability of psychoanalysis in medical history; what comes to my mind now is the currency 'Medical Humanities' is gaining globally. Markedly, this is bringing back the roles of humanities to guide medical care and introduce the power of critical thinking into interrogation and interpretation of divergent roles of human agency in medical issues as they relate to how victims or patients are psychological & medically treated and stopping objectification and belittling of patients. This will help historians to contribute to the field of medicine because the issues around health are not only medical, epidemiological, sociological but also historical.

No doubt, in the history of diseases and cycles of public health conversations; the issues of individuation, dehumanisation and humanity will remain problematic for historian of medicine particularly within the framework of using psychoanalysis. As historians continue to explore the field of medicine; historians must be reminded that "the dead and patients do not ask to be cured" by them, but "only to be understood". Fundamentally, in the field of medicine, I think the idea with which the historian must work is not just cause-and-effect but more of challenge-and-response.
SMB Johnson is a historian and a researcher in the fields of Historical Science, Philosophy of History, Medical Humanities and History of Diseases in Africa.....

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