EPIS Education, a division of the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society, is now accepting applications for the 2018-19 school year for its new program in non-violence, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and critical theory.

Please contact Dr. Kevin Boileau for details at kbradref@gmail.com.


New EPIS Seminar: A Trans-Humanist Phenomenology of the Radical Other


One of the existential domains in Dasein analysis, existential analysis, and humanistic psychologies is the (living) physical world. This is the furniture, processes, and complex life domains in which we live. However, because of various ideologies that distort ontological valuation, we end up pushing much of this world to the periphery. This includes the non-human Other. This is the radical Other.

In conjunction with the Non-Violent (Life) Design Institute, the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute will be offering a seminar in a trans-humanist approach to the radical Other. This is a seminar in critical theory, psychoanalysis, and existential phenomenology, focusing on the structures of the world in which humans live, including those of non-human Others – – from both subjective and objective phenomenological orientations.

Amongst other meanings, we fail to understand why we have so subjugated this domain of our existential lebenswelt, and all its inhabitants, to our own peril and to the moral catastrophe that we wage on the Earth, and Them, every day.


Dr. Boileau, Dean of Faculty

EPIS Curriculum 2018-19

Dean of Faculty, Kevin Boileau, announces the 2018-19 curriculum for our quarterly seminars.

Kevin Boileau

Nazarita Goldhammer

Existential Psychoanalytic Institute

& Society







1ST DRAFT 2.9.18

*There may be small modifications in the reading depending upon

 the needs of the EPIS community.

*Default is Mountain Time. Please adjust your

calendar depending upon your time zone.

Session 1:

August 31 & September 1 (2018)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Existential Analysis:

(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Practising Existential Psychotherapy (Read all) & The Interpreted World, Spinelli (Read Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7); The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology, Giorgi (Read as you can over our school year); Skills in Existential Counselling, Van Deurzen (Read Introduction, Chapters 1-3, the balance over the school year); Introduction to Phenomenology, Sokolowski (This is good background; read in full as soon as possible.).

Bring one clinical case or social encounter that you are willing to share within regular guidelines of confidentiality.  We will apply the phenomenological method, thereby showing the dialectical tension with the natural attitude.


Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:

(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)

An Introduction to Husserl’s Phenomenology.  Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996, Chapters 1 (“Phenomenology as a Philosophy and Its Relation to Traditional Metaphysical Approaches”) and 2 (“The Philosophy of Arithmetic”)

Recommended (Primary)

Body, Community, Language, World. Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1999.

Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History. Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohák. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996.

The Natural World as a Philosophical Problem. Jan Patocka. Translated by Erika Abrams. Edited by Ivan Chvatik, Edited by Lubica Ucnik.

Recommended (Secondary)

Edward F. Findlay, Caring for the soul in a postmodern age: politics and phenomenology in the thought of Jan Patočka

 Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death

 Erazim Kohak, Jan Patocka: Philosophy and Selected Writings


Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:

(Saturday, 10-noon p.m., MT)

Ecrits, The First Complete Edition in English, Lacan, Article 23 (“Remarks of Daniel Lagache’s Presentation: ‘Psychoanalysis and Personality Structure’”)


Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:

(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Technologies of the Self, Michel Foucault, 1988, Articles 1 (“Truth, Power, Self: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” Rex Martin) and 2 (“Technologies of the Self,” Michel Foucault)


Session 2:

November 30 & December 1 (2018)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Existential Analysis:

(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Practising Existential Psychotherapy (Read all) & The Interpreted World, Spinelli (Read Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7); The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology, Giorgi (Read as you can over our school year);Skills in Existential Counselling, Van Deurzen (Read Introduction, Chapters 1-3, the balance over the school year);Introduction to Phenomenology, Sokolowski (This is good background; read in full as soon as possible.).

 Bring one clinical case or social encounter that you are willing to share within regular guidelines of confidentiality.  We will apply the phenomenological method, thereby showing the dialectical tension with the natural attitude.


Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:

(Friday, 6-8 MT)

An Introduction to Husserl’s Phenomenology.  Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996, Chapters 3 (“Pure Logic: The Logical Investigations”) and 4 (“The Concept of Phenomenon”)


Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:

(Saturday, 10-noon p.m. MT)

Ecrits, Lacan, Article 24 (“The Signification of the Phallus”)


Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:

(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Technologies of the Self, Foucault, Articles 7 (“Foucault, Freud, and the Technologies of the Self,” Patrick H. Hutton) and 8 (“The Political Technology of Individuals,” Foucault)

Session 3:

March 1 & 2 (2019)

Applied & Clinical Phenomenology/Existential Analysis:

(Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Practising Existential Psychotherapy (Read all) & The Interpreted World, Spinelli (Read Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7); The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology, Giorgi (Read as you can over our school year); Skills in Existential Counselling, Van Deurzen (Read Introduction, Chapters 1-3, the balance over the school year); Introduction to Phenomenology, Sokolowski (This is good background; read in full as soon as possible.).

 Bring one clinical case or social encounter that you are willing to share within regular guidelines of confidentiality.  We will apply the phenomenological method, thereby showing the dialectical tension with the natural attitude.


Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:

(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)

An Introduction to Husserl’s Phenomenology.  Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996, Chapters 5 (“Pure Logic and the Problem of the Grounding of Experience”) & 6 (“The First Explanation of the Phenomenological Reduction”)


Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:

(Saturday, 10-noon p.m. MT)

Ecrits, Article 25 (“In Memory of Ernest Jones: On His Theory of Symbolism”)


Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:

(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, Foucault, The following articles:

“The Will to Knowledge,” “Penal Theories and Institutions,” “The Punitive Society,”

and “Psychiatric Power.”

Session 4:

May 31 and June 1 (2019)

Applied and Clinical Phenomenology/Existential Analysis:

 (Friday, 4-6 p.m. MT)

Practising Existential Psychotherapy (Read all) & The Interpreted World, Spinelli (Read Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7); The Descriptive Phenomenological Method in Psychology, Giorgi (Read as you can over our school year); Skills in Existential Counselling, Van Deurzen (Read Introduction, Chapters 1-3, the balance over the school year); Introduction to Phenomenology, Sokolowski (This is good background; read in full as soon as possible.).


Bring one clinical case or social encounter that you are willing to share within regular guidelines of confidentiality.  We will apply the phenomenological method, thereby showing the dialectical tension with the natural attitude.


Transcendental/Existential Phenomenology:

(Friday, 6-8 p.m. MT)

An Introduction to Husserl’s Phenomenology.  Jan Patocka. Translated by Erazim Kohak. Edited by James Dodd. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1996, Chapters 7 (“Analysis of Internal Time Consciousness”) and 8 (“Incarnate Being”)


Psychoanalysis & Philosophy:

(Saturday, 10-noon p.m.)

Ecrits, Lacan Articles 26 (“On An Ex Post Facto Syllabary”) and 27 (“Guiding Remarkes for a Convention on Female Sexuality”)


 Critical Theory, Cultural Criticism & Psychoanalysis:

(Saturday, noon-2 p.m. MT)

Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, Foucault, The following articles: (“The Abnormals” “Society Must Be Defended,” “Security, Territory, and Population,” and “The Birth of Biopolitics”).


March 1, 2018 version

EPIS curriculum, copyright, 2018-19

Official Version, Draft 1

EPIS Education






EPIS Conference 2018

Nazarita Goldhammer and Kevin Boileau announce the 2018 EPIS conference.



Indigenous Roots and Encounters with Nature:

Psychoanalysis, Phenomenology, Critical Theory


Online Conference: 27-28 July

Selected proceedings to be published in EPIS journal


Submissions Deadline: 1 June 2018.

Conference fee: $100


Accepting papers for July 27/28 conference on the natural & indigenous roots of a progressive psychoanalysis, applied phenomenology, and anthropologically transformative critical theory.

While looking to past theories in psychoanalysis and phenomenology is important, this conference will focus on new, creative ideas, concepts, and theories. The goal is to produce presentations and papers that explore innovative work in psychoanalysis and phenomenology that refer to natural and indigenous roots of our civilization and cultures within it.

Our hope is to produce papers that explore alienated relationships between the living world, life, and the given, and our contemporary understanding of psychoanalysis and phenomenology.  This involves, necessarily, critical theory, applied phenomenology, praxis, and potentials for transformative change, individually and collectively.  Please refer to episjournal.com for policies.

Traditionally, however, psychologists and psychoanalysts will use APA-Style guide and philosophers will use the Chicago Manual of Style.  Please also submit a paper for the 2018 journal issue even if you cannot attend the conference.  Please submit these papers to Kevin Boileau, PhD, at kbradref@gmail.com.

I offer this short excerpt from the book Vivantonomy, and hope that our readers will enjoy it.  It is part of our contribution to a new human anthropology.

Kevin Boileau

  1. Introduction

I am writing this book in Missoula, Montana, USA, in fall of 2014 and the early part of 2015.  It comes from several years of thought, teaching, research, work with Professor David A. Boileau, work at the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute, work with the Global Center for Advanced Studies, work at the BCS Dispute Resolution Research Institute, and valuable dialogue with Professor Burggraeve himself.  While it is true that I practice, teach, and write in the areas of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and phenomenology, it is also true that I have spent decades of my life studying moral theory.  My work here comes from all that I mention, but I must state that the content of this book is perhaps important to me primarily because of the gravity of moral issues currently facing human beings.  I take full responsibility for any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies.  However, much of my thinking comes from several earlier volumes of mine and I feel confident that I have been true and fair both past and present.

Primary written sources for my work include my prior books entitled Genuine Reciprocity, Essays on Phenomenology, Manifesto on Solidarity, and Critical Existential Psycho-Analysis (and all notations and references); Professor Burggraeve’s book From Self-Development to Solidarity (along with all his references to original work by Emmanuel Levinas), and in general, all the work he has done on Levinas, including his new unpublished essay “Bound to the Other Before Any Contract,” which focuses on the triplicate of the French Revolution, which he wants to re-order to fraternity, equality, freedom.”; private notes and correspondence between David A. Boileau and me; and finally, all the work that I have published in other formats in psychoanalysis, cooperative conflict resolution, and phenomenology.  My endnotes reference my original ideas, contributions of ideas from others, or the source books I list above.  The main purpose of my contribution is not to demonstrate broad knowledge about who is writing in this area.  In contrast, it is to present some focused ideas that I have been working on for over two decades, and about which some clarity is starting to emerge in my own consciousness.

I have organized this text as an introduction in a general way to my perspective on the thought of Levinas, some of my interpretations of Burggraeve’s work I mention above, my thoughts about what I call a “trans-human” approach to solidarity, and a rapprochement of my work with Burggraeve’s, especially focusing on the notion of responsibility and human fraternity. Let us now turn to some general thoughts about Levinas, which will bring my work alongside Burggraeve’s.  Then, I shall follow a simple progression of thought in the main body of my essay.  This will show how our modern anthropology of the human has progressed from the autonomy of Kant to the heteronomy of Levinas, and to the trans-human approach that I outline.  Thus, we move from what I call the “possessive self” of the Enlightenment to the other-directed self we see with Levinas, Burggraeve, Marcel (carefully reviewed in my Critical Existential Psycho-Analysis) and others, which increases the demand for responsibility and which re-configures our anthropology.  I then propose a new type of humanism that is other-directed, to be sure, but which moves beyond a humanism that focuses solely or primarily on humans and human benefit.  In this humanism, which constructs a ”trans-human” anthropology, the focus goes beyond humans in order to take into account on an equal basis with a principle of ontological parity, the environment, and perhaps more import, all sentient life.

I will thereby argue that this trans-humanist move is necessary in order to complete the historical-theoretical line of thinking that Levinas starts and which Burggraeve develops and refines.  I propose that this trans-human approach is consonant with the thinking of both Levinas and Burggraeve, and that it allows us a deeper sense of the heteronomous approach, surpassing it through a radicalization of its theoretical core.  Further, it develops our notion of fraternity, refines our sense of solidarity, enriches our beliefs about mutuality and reciprocity, and finally, broadens and extends the requirements of responsibility for each of us, and all of us.  In the end, I believe that this is the most important consequence of this progression.  I also might add that my work is exploratory in the sense that a trans-humanism purports to “cross” or go beyond both humanisms of autonomy and heteronomy but then proceeds to return to both.  I hope that the reader can generously interpret my intent, which is solely to enrich Professor Burggraeve’s refined notions of fraternity and responsibility, and to continue to develop our understanding of what is truly an ethic that relies on a radicalized heteronomous anthropology.  I must confess that as we make our commitments to greater levels of responsibility and to an anthropology that deepens its commitment to all others, and to the Other, we necessarily find ourselves at sea—with loss of autonomy, ego, and personal identity as we have known it.  I am grateful to both Professor David A. Boileau and to Professor Roger Burggraeve for helping me develop this work.  Because of the nature of these ideas, much of what I write here is in part motivated by faith in the not-yet-known.  Let us turn to some general thoughts about Levinas as we proceed to the problem at hand.

Kevin Boileau

Nazarita Goldhammer

EPIS Education

EPIS Press

The Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society


Nazarita Goldhammer, Director of the Existential Psychoanalytic Institute, and Dr. Kevin Boileau, Dean of Faculty, offer the following exegesis concerning responsibility.  We hope it will be thought-provoking and valuable to you.

As foundation for a character-driven approach to the moral life, it is important not only to do the right thing but also to have good dispositions, motivations, attitudes, character, and moral habit. It goes beyond the duties of the law and motivates people toward excellence. The overall goal is for humans to go beyond mere survival and to flourish together in communities. This sought-after state of eudaimonia requires social institutions that work for justice and fairness. This infrastructure creates the environmental conditions that allow for the individuals within it to excel.

Once we figure out which character traits we ought to cultivate then we must consistently incorporate them into our occupational and personal lives. When we acquire these dispositions, we must then learn how to apply them to the right degree. That is, in our experience of such states as fear, anxiety, anger, and so forth, we must learn to experience them at the right time, toward the right objects, toward the right people, for the right reason and in the right manner, applying a standard of balance. What is very important is that we emulate those of us who have developed virtuous behavior. Correspondingly, when we act virtuously we must serve as exemplars for others in our communities.

To figure out which of the virtues we ought to focus on and develop, we must first understand our values as an organization or as a community, for it is these values that virtuous behavior must serve. Let us understand that a value is an ideal or something that we aspire toward as a state of being or a condition. In contrast, a virtue is a behavior that supports the value. A partial list of possible virtues could include unity, identity, democracy, integrity, family, community, hard work, and strength. Let’s briefly define them.

Unity means a kind of solidarity in which we come together to advance the dignity of each of us, and all of us together.  This does not seem to be the type of system that has emerged from the Enlightenment and its valorization of autonomy.  As a part of this solidarity we must acknowledge the identities of individuals and group of individuals. To further the value of identity, we must also value democracy, for in this kind of system we respect diversity, our responsibility to it as well as to the democratic process. Integrity implies unwavering commitment. Hard work and strength imply assiduousness, focus, and perseverance.  Further, there are many ways to talk about this list of values and their corresponding virtues. We must focus here, though, on how this cluster of values comes together to form what we are as moral selves. While keeping the preceding list in mind, let’s focus on three major values as well as related values that support the major ones. The major values that we want to address are solidarity, justice, and responsibility. The supporting values include integrity, respect for others, beneficence, and compassion.

The primordial condition of solidarity is that the other is entrusted to me in an unconditional manner. We are similarly situated, with similar pain, and similar challenges. It is a belonging together that emerges from the realization that the community one belongs to constitutes a single whole. It is a state of interdependence, an ethical feeling of compassion, and a deep spiritual connection. On the sociological level, for example in any community, group, or organization, we are dependent upon each other, not only for our survival but for our flourishing as well. On the personal level this requires us to be empathic or compassionate with each other, to stand in each other’s shoes. This requires us to commit ourselves to the common good and to the good of each human because each of us is responsible for all. Even more, it requires radical selflessness and forgiveness of each other. It presupposes a symmetrical relation of respect for each other’s rights, as well as an asymmetrical relation that goes beyond rights. This asymmetry requires self-sacrifice. Thus, the needs of the other take priority over one’s own interests.

Solidarity requires us to go beyond the contractual model to a social model that is based on covenant. In this model, every relationship that is mediated by objects, including capital and property, must be subordinated to the more fundamental relationship between people as communal beings–that is, we need each other. The quality of the relationship of solidarity is an end-in-itself, a state in which we overcome the valuation of others for extrinsic, instrumental reasons. This is linked to the axiom that there is a universal right to use the resources of the earth. Thus, based on the assumption of the individual dignity of each person, each of us must be seen in a way such that individual interests must never run counter to the general welfare. That is, the universal goods of the union are to be shared universally. This requires those of us with more shared goods to share them with the less fortunate. This process should humanize our contractual relations.

The process of contributing to this state of solidarity triggers the value of justice. Justice is fairness. It is the principle of moral rightness. It is the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward. In valuing justice, then, we are committed to the fair and equitable treatment of persons. Justice entails rewarding persons in accordance with their deserts, or withholding the reward when appropriate. It also entails punishment for those who deserve it. This system of rewarding and punishing ought to be carried out by those in power in accord with substantive and procedural rules. This raises the issue of whether those in power were elected to positions of power through fair processes and whether the system of reward and punishment is itself fair. Further, justice is not so much about equality as it is about equity. Thus, sometimes people should be treated equally and sometimes not. The three main types are retributive, compensatory, and distributive. Justice as retribution concerns fair punishment practices. Typically, in the discourse of ethics we refer to retribution in terms of accountability and the need to punish those who violate professional standards. Part of this involves exposing those who violate our common standards and agreements. Compensatory justice concerns fair reward practices. It is what we do when we settle on an equitable way of rewarding individuals for their achievements or benefiting others because of their disadvantages or for harms done to them. Finally, distributive justice concerns fair allocation practices. It concerns how the benefits and burdens of our community are passed out. In our community, it concerns the allocation of protections, rights, goods, and services.

When we translate the value of justice into action we usually must make a comparison. We compare the actions, needs, or merits of one person to those of others. To assess what is fair we must assess what a person deserves by comparison him with others. We can only determine what is fair by determining what is fair to others. Thus, justice is always relative to the situation, persons, and resources at hand. Justice also requires equal treatment of those who are similarly situated and unequal treatment of those who are not similarly situated. In the attempt to be just, we must presume that persons are equals unless reflective differences show that they are not. To demonstrate that persons ought to be treated differently, for example, regarding job skills, we need to look at the job and determine which skills are necessary for that job.  This process takes proving that a skill is necessary, or is a crucial part of the task to be done and not just an accidental or irrelevant fact.

To pursue justice, we must overcome a concept of self that limits responsibility, which is the third value that we want to adopt. Responsibility is first that quality that makes us committed to anything. It requires that we follow through on the values that we have recognized as a basic part of what it means to be human and more specifically what it means to be a part of any specific group. When we are connected to other people we have responsibility to them. It is what makes us care about being ethical and perhaps can be spoken about as moral motivation. Responsibility is perhaps the most important value underpinning any moral transformation. Let’s therefore develop an extended and sustained discussion about it.  To prepare yourself for this discussion, imagine a social ontology—a set of expectations—that is not merely based on contract.  Let’s consider instead that it is based on an axiom of ontological parity.

Responsibility can be thought of in two senses. First, it is the precondition for being moral, that is, thinking that ethics is important in the first place. Second, it is the list of those specific actions required of us when we are responsible to or for someone or something. It is that which binds us to the world and to others, requiring a response when appropriate. When we are infants we do not understand responsibility; our only task it seems is to immediately satisfy our desires. As we grow older we recognize that our needs must be rank ordered and mediated by the needs of others. Responsibility manifests itself by reflecting on and acting upon the constellation of our whole value system. It is the very way that we can explain our connection to others. Further, it is the way that we connect to the world and to others–in terms of our value systems–that gives meaning to the lives of each of us.

Our specific responsibilities come in two ways. We are responsible to some others, for example our co-workers and supervisors, and we are responsible for some others, again including our co-workers or perhaps those who are on our work team. When we are responsible to someone we must render an accounting to that person, and we have duties to do so. These duties, in fact, come from the very nature of the relationship into which we have entered freely. For example, a mailman has the duty to deliver the mail even though he may be tired or not feel well. A mother may have the duty to care for her children even though she may have other interests and desires. These responsibilities are accepted as a part of agreeing to do a specific job, whether we like or enjoy each of them. In addition, those things that we are responsible for are those actions and events that we cause or have some causal relationship to because we are the moral agent who brings them about.

The word “responsibility” operates in at least two dimensions.  It contains a moral notion of personal culpability and a legal notion concerned with collective organization and the indemnification of victims. Individual moral responsibility is first concerned with imputation of blame because of an act that violates an obligation. To identify one as a perpetrator means to make him responsible for the consequences of an act. He answers for it because the action is attributed to him. Although sometimes responsibility is attributed to those who take initiative, thereby assigning them adulation, we usually speak of it in the negative sense, when someone wrongs another.

The negative usage comes from the criminal law, in which we assign a penalty to someone who is guilty of an offense. We show that a person has committed an act while in control of his faculties and assign him punishment in accordance with various factors, the most important of which is the attribution of responsibility for the act and its consequences. Responsibility establishes a three-part relationship between the responsible person, the domain of his responsibility, and the authority before which that person is answerable.

Legal responsibility implies an obligation to restore damage caused to others through one’s own fault and in criminal law to suffer the established penalty. In morality, as well as in law, the paradigm case involves an informed intentionality, or lack of regard for the interests of others. In the professional or occupational domain, the moral reference of responsibility for one’s actions is founded on the obligation not to harm others and to restore the injuries one has caused. It is an individualistic responsibility born out of the obligation to answer for one’s acts and to act in a way that any other person could act in a similar manner. Each professional role one plays comes with a certain set of duties, and a person thereby assumes responsibility for faithfully discharging the duties that come with the role. This notion also includes the ideal not to charge others for one’s own responsibility. It is very important to note that even if our behavior is highly constricted within the organization in which we work, we still cannot legitimately renounce our capacity for autonomous behavior. We always have choice.

What is very interesting is how modern technology and the rise of super-corporations has put into question the traditional notion of responsibility. In this new notion, the fault of the origin of an accident is not emphasized. Instead, the focus is on restoring to the victim was taken from him. The increasing complexity of human action in modern industry, where there are often several structural, organizational, and individual contributing factors, makes it very difficult to assign blame to one specific person. The sheer complexity of our technology has, in some cases, made the identification of direct causal linkage a nearly impossible task. We see, then, in the post-modern era, a real solidarity—of a sort—in human action.   I question that this appearance of solidarity is real solidarity. In this new paradigm, employers pay heavily into insurance funds that pay damages to the wounded. We replace individual fault by social risk management at the managerial level, but this doesn’t alleviate the notion of responsibility at the individual level.

Solidarity creates a system in which one can be responsible without necessarily being guilty before the law. That is, individual responsibility persists, even though because of the complexity of the modern corporation in may be difficult if not impossible to assign legal blame for an accident or other malfeasance. Civil law, which insists on restoration, develops much quicker than criminal law, which is founded on penalty and on the pursuit of the perpetrator. Whereas criminal law and morality may often converge when determining the illicit act, civil law reinforces a disconnection from morality.

The notion of responsibility for risks develops a natural solidarity among the members of a community, in which the risk is shared collectively. This can create a tendency toward irresponsibility of workers, if companies are financially responsible through insurance, and this can create an economic counter-force against those workers. This necessitates a revival and a re-instantiation of individual worker responsibility through natural and matured solidarity. Because it is so difficult in some cases to assign individual culpability, we must at least consider the benefits of struggling together to deal with and overcome these complicated misfortunes, for they impact all of us and we suffer together.

In the new society, with its complicated industrial-technological complex, many sorts of human relations are no longer face-to-face. We affect others in the workplace, therefore, even though we do not see them. This could potentially lead to–and perhaps already has–a decreased sense of responsibility amongst individuals. This leads to the danger that the community itself will suffer the burden of taking care of the risks. In addition, we must also be on guard against the transfer of responsibility to those who are perceived as being responsible, for example, senior management, supervisors, and team leaders. This tendency here can lead to witch hunting of “those responsible,” who ultimately perhaps may answer for the negligence of others. In this regard, Taine himself claimed that: “The popular imagination needs living persons to whom it can impute its wrongs and on whom it can unload its emotions.” Here, restoration is viewed as insufficient, and punishment itself becomes the goal, in the attempt to purify society of the evil that threatens it. In this paradigm leaders are at risk as the body politic, including workers, members of professional organizations, business partners, students, family members, and more, each give up their own accountability.  As we use the Internet and other advanced communication technologies, we face the risk that this phenomenon may become more serious and more dangerous.

Nevertheless, behind the veil of anonymity there are real and actual persons who assume various responsibilities and who act them out in situation. The ones with more power and information have responsibility for the execution of tasks that have been entrusted to them and for the wellbeing of the persons for whom they care. While denying a direct causal relation, which is one of the characteristics of moral imputability, this responsibility dissociates itself from civil responsibility, which we have already viewed as a collective insurance. In this way, responsibility is understood as an emergent quality of playing a certain role.

In professional or occupational ethics, the level of responsibility of a specific person is correlative with the degree of power, knowledge, and liberty that are tied up with the part he or she plays within a certain organization and with the type of services they render. This often corresponds with a certain level of income and social power, as well. For persons who practice a profession–a doctor or a lawyer–moral obligations are strictly and clearly framed in terms of individual responsibility. Thus, their acts are more easily understood than those of workers, whose power and behavior is always contextualized within a long chain of interaction and whose productive work cannot always be seen directly.

In addition, there are ways of administering human resources that reduce the responsibility of the agents involved, insistent as they are on obedience to instructions and subordination. This does not mean that the public or that the company itself does not look for a scapegoat in its workers, even though the actual tasks that they were responsible for were not substantial enough to have caused the malfeasance. We must always look at the organizational character, too, for some have rigid pyramidal structures and others have more cooperative and participatory, which allow for more expression of individual autonomy and responsibility.  This inquiry, therefore, triggers the question about “noetics,” which can apply to individuals, to companies, to societies, and to whole cultures.  Because of these new complexities, our responsibility forces us to consider our underlying philosophical anthropology, which affects individuals as it does the whole.

In a complex system in which everything is more entangled and more uncertain, it is important to acknowledge and promote the autonomy of those involved. This makes apparent the need for clarification of the role, power, and autonomy of each position in the web of relationships, which in turn creates a real ability to assign responsibility. Concomitant with this structural organization in which autonomies are created, we need a clear statement of standards of conduct, for each role to be discharged in the system. This set of ethical imperatives becomes a promise that each of us makes to each other, by playing the role that we agree to and to which we are assigned. Clearly, these promises need to be re-evaluated periodically, and we also must provide the sort of training and education that will enhance one’s ability to carry out his or her duties. In short, responsibilities must be clarified and the network of all interrelated responsibilities communicated in such a way that we all understand how our duties fit in with the whole.

Moreover, we must always be aware of changes in global conditions in all domains, including the economic, the governmental, the social, the legal, and so forth, which may transform relations of relative power in such a way as to create new zones of responsibility. These new zones of responsibility alter current moral relations as well as create new ones, thus we must be vigilant. Furthermore, we cannot ignore those who are distant from us either in space or in time. Just because we do not ever see someone, we may have moral responsibility to them because of the complex interrelationship of all things. That is, we may not be able to see all the consequences of our behavior even though we know that they exist. We must also be careful about the future, for each action we engage in now has important effects for future generations. Hans Jonas expresses these concepts in this way: “Act so that the effects of your action are compatible with the permanence of genuine human life,” or “Act so that the effects of your action are not destructive of the future possibility of such life.”  This implies that we must act on right principle because we cannot see or understand the wide-ranging consequences of our behavior.

This new notion of responsibility orients itself toward the trajectory of our behavior and comports with the forgotten etymology of the word “responsible,” which is called sponsor in Latin. A sponsor vouches for someone else. To be responsible means to stand as a surety for another. For Nietzsche himself, being responsible means that one is “capable of making promises,” giving one’s word, and making a decision in which one commits oneself to the future. From this promise emerges behavior and one’s contribution toward the situation of others. Seen in this light, responsibility means that one can keep one’s promise. Concomitantly, it means to inspire confidence in others. Perhaps most importantly, it is about a lifetime exercise in virtue, in which we do work on ourselves, in relation to the others in our lives. At its very roots, then, freedom is mediated by responsibility to others because we are always in relation to them.

Let’s take stock of our account of responsibility. We must, first, always carefully consider the effects of our behavior on others, present and future. We must also take steps to prevent any foreseeable harm, before we act. Not to be aware of danger is irresponsible and thus we must live a life of preventative prudence. This obligation extends to all the domains of social life even where the causal links are harder to see. Second, we are witnessing an explosion of knowledge about our world, and this also mandates that we engage in reasonable research to discover potential harms. We must derivatively pay attention to the obligation to communicate both our knowledge and our lack of knowledge about any factors that may affect a risk of harm. The third obligation consists in restoring to victims what they lose, through the system of suretyship. Presumably this transfer of resources back to victims comes through channels of compensatory and even retributory justice to which we adhere and about which we dialogue, keeping firmly in mind that education and moral growth is the main objective.

Traditionally, ethical responsibility focused on antecedent causes and was mostly concerned with individual duties that emerged out of present and past relationships. This paradigm is giving way to a new focus toward the future and long-term relationships, especially pinpointing those individuals who are especially susceptible to the effects of collective action. We are moving from a mere system that prohibits us from actively harming other to a system in which we are responsible for proactively changing structures that harm and responsible for actively helping others. We are, then, not just responsible for keeping our house in order. The watermark is higher, and now we are more and more responsible for others—those we supervise, the innocent, the weak, those in the future, and so forth. My responsibility no longer emanates from inside of me. Instead, it comes from each other person who calls to me, who appeals to me. I, in turn, must listen attentively so that I may hear their calls. I must look beyond my own immediate circle of relations and adopt a broader view, becoming responsible for a much wider range of individuals. It is not that we become responsible for everyone and everything. Yet, it means that we transform a duty-based ethics where we pursue the right action into the pursuit of virtue in which we pursue the good and are always vigilant for the needs and interests of others.  This includes all Others.

Let us now talk about becoming mature. Let us talk about the developmental process of assuming broader and deeper levels of responsibility. Before we are conscious we are beings with urges and wants. This is the state of a child whose original urge is for self-directed happiness. We can characterize this wanting as selfish, narcissistic, with the logic of pursuing as much pleasure as possible and as avoiding as much pain as is possible. Here, the conscious subject thinks that he is the center of the world and the measure of all things. He is the center of all meaning and all claims to truth. This, we hold, is the unconscious narcissism that has determined the entire western vision of who we are. It is the basis for our anthropology of the subject, of the self.

In this state, we are so involved with ourselves that we view all other things in the light of ourselves. We are shackled to our own self-image and find our wellbeing in the pleasure we have in our own image. At bottom our desires are directed right back toward ourselves as we each try to wrap our heads around the rest of the world, including other people. In this state, then, we totalize a world in terms of our own small frame of mind. Here there is a complete convergence between oneself and objective reality.  This lack of a gap or discrepancy is our propensity toward self-deception.  It is a denial of the transcendent, which is the world of possibility, of overcoming, and of change.  This foundation creates complacency, depression, and misplaced aggression.

This state prohibits us from directing ourselves toward another person in terms of his own difference. Rather, in this state we utilize the other’s image for our own project of becoming. In this kind of way of life, which is mostly unconscious, I want others to want me in various ways. This helps me develop my self-identity as well as my self-esteem. Yet if I approach others in this narcissistic way, only in terms of my own need for wholeness, I preclude myself from listening to their need. This way in the world creates a kind of tit-for-tat, competitive [and adversarial] social dynamic in which we do things for others in the hope and with the expectation that we will receive something in return. It creates a world that is a war of all against all, overtly or covertly.

Unfortunately, when we see others in this way, we often unconsciously attribute to them the qualities of ourselves. This externalizing of our own self creates a project of mastering the other when we are just trying to master the wounds of the past that we have internalized into ourselves. This kind of need can also show up in the belief in a god that is narcissistic. In this state, we pursue a unity with god to obtain an overwhelming assurance and protected-ness. Again, though, in our narcissism we are only chasing ourselves.

Yet we realize that we can never reduce the other as a function of our own happiness. He is always different, and always escapes what we want from him. However, in this egocentric involvement with the world, we create relations of power with other people. Because of the fear of losing our own identity in the face of the other, we try harder to ignore our difference, but in this way, we don’t see what he may need from us. This creates a social world that is very much based on an economy of usefulness–we each see the other in terms of his or her use value. I use you to affirm and develop myself. You do the same. Thus, we all do.

All of us, led by our egocentrism, are motivated by our need for autonomy, wanting to expand the reach of our influence as much as possible, and thus we collide with each other in our everyday push for power. From this conflict, the numerous people who inhabit the same ecosphere cannot each be at the center of things. This causes us–in our egocentricity–to position ourselves against each other. But hardly anyone wants to live in this kind of system, in which no one can be trusted and where we constantly must watch our backs. The better things in life–peace, music, relaxation, pleasure, and the like–don’t come when we are always on the verge of violence. Consequently, we enter into compacts with others, giving up only so much of our autonomy as is necessary to avoid the other’s violence. This leads to the formulation of laws and clear statements of rights.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it treats weaker groups and individuals unfairly. This is so because the system itself is born of egocentrism and relations of power. Within the logic of this system, attention is given to the powerless only to the extent that they pose a threat to the powerful. Our history, then, is a history of conquests; it is a humanism of those that are proud of being conquerors. Within a history of this kind of competitive dynamic–of all against all–we have become desensitized to the other, and the cycle intensifies. Most of us suffer a constantly nagging that something is wrong, but we hide from it; we run from it. We use food, drugs, sex, shopping, and the like to distract ourselves from the truth of our lack of attention to the other.  We thus retreat from our responsibility to others, each other, and all Others.

Nevertheless, at some point in our development, in our maturation process, we understand that we are not at the center of the social world and that we never were really. This presents us with the conceptual and experiential problem of finding a way out of our narcissism and our egocentrism. We cannot do it in terms of our own internalized, pleasure-seeking enterprise. It therefore must come from outside each one of us. It must come from the other himself. As such, we must transcend viewing the other as a force that must be overcome. Furthermore, we must see the other—not in terms of our own categories of understanding and not in terms of our own agenda—but in terms of his or her radical difference.

It is the look.  The solution involves the look of the other. It is the other’s glance that breaks through my egocentric construction of him. When I look in the other’s face, directly in the eyes, I see how different he is. I can flee from this fact. I can hide it. But I know it. This is the fundamental fact in my interaction with the other. I know at some level that he always escapes me, always escapes my ideas about him. It is an uncanny feeling that we experience, as we realize that the other really is different. Just the look of the other resists my attempt to wrap my head around him. It is his plea for me not to annihilate him—not to kill him. That he is unfamiliar.

The face of the other becomes my judge. He raises the issue of my power. He raises the issue of his own difference. In the other’s face, we recognize that what we take to be our right and our freedom is just an imperialism that conquers, that takes, and that murders. I realize that my spontaneous impulse toward self- affirmation and self-development is not so innocent, that I affect others from the ground up, even in my so-called reality as a free being. My conscience tells me from the bottom up that I am necessarily interdependent with others.  This includes all sentient life, including humans and other beings both known and unknown.

This responsibility that causes me shame precedes my ideas about freedom. It precedes any agreements I make. It has little to do with feelings of altruism or sympathy for others, feelings that come from conscious awareness. I learn that my responsibility comes as a very part of who I am. I learn that I am not independent from others and that I live for the other—one way or the other. I learn that I am not only responsible for my own “free” decisions but that I am also responsible for the other, and for his responsibility as well. Dostoevsky himself agrees with this extreme view of responsibility by saying in The Brothers Karamazov that “each of us is guilty before all, for all, and I more than all others.” I am thereby responsible for my neighbor. When the other looks at me, calls to me, I cannot avoid him. I cannot pretend that responsibility for him is not my concern for my pretending belies my acknowledgment, that I have heard his appeal. In the other’s face, I realize that I do have a choice. I can either use him economically or answer to his appeal. If I answer his appeal, I act without regard for my desire. This goodness demands no repayment or satisfaction. Here, the concern for myself disappears from the center of attention. I become preoccupied with the other’s situation and the other’s need. I surpass my concern for my own life as I concentrate on what the other needs from me.  This responsibility extends to all humans, including the elderly, the weak, the infirm, and the disabled.  They each have a Look, and they each appeal no matter what their level of functioning.  They each play a part in the whole of humanity.  Moreover, there is no good reason to preclude other sentient beings from this responsibility.

Let us be clear that this a struggle: the choice between egocentrism and responsibility. Goodness comes every time I successfully free myself from my selfishness. I must constantly be vigilant to my natural tendency to put myself first. The other must always count for more. Perhaps goodness just is this struggle between narcissism and responsibility. This is not to say that I negate myself as a person or that I negate my own identity. Instead, it is a matter of putting the other first as a matter of course and as a reversal of spontaneous, selfish inclination. Giving to the other goes hand in hand with emptying myself of myself. Giving truly means giving something up. Giving means giving a gift of myself. When I am responsible, I am for the other always, in spite of myself.

In this new paradigm, or way of being, I do not primarily seek out the protection of my own rights. Instead I seek out and advance the rights of others. I protect the other first. I serve the other first. I look out for the other first. I answer to the other first. I give to the other first. I give to the other without regard for my feeling. I give to the other without expectation of repayment. I give to the other without considering the potential advantages. In my giving, which is without regard for any instrumental good that I could achieve through my giving, I give universally and without discrimination. I give because it is my responsibility to do so. Thus, my relationship with the person to whom I give is not a relation to a specific other; instead it is a relation to all, distant and near. It is a universal stance.

When I am responsible to the other I am led by the truth that the other has a right over me. All others occupy this place in me, thus I must act in ways that protect even the absent others. It may that the only responsibility I have for the other is economic, for it is only through the economic relation that I can protect him. This requires careful mediation between all my responsibilities to others, as well as to my responsibilities for my own self-development.  I must develop my abilities to serve others. Each of us, to whatever degree we are capable of must also, and especially if this is the role we are playing, make sure that the institutional structures that carry out justice are based on the kind of responsibility about which we have been talking. One can argue that this kind of a society is a utopian ideal but this is not a good reason for not trying to attain it. We must constantly charge ourselves to higher standards because they keep us from drifting back into the kind of egocentrism that leads to the sort of violence and war that we see today.

Nazarita Goldhammer, Director

Dr. Kevin Boileau, PhD, JD, Dean

The Existential Psychoanalytic Institute & Society announces its new offices at 440 Stevens Ave Suite 200, Solana Beach, CA 92075.  We will maintain our headquarters in Montana, and will also add West L.A. offices in 2018.

We will continue to run our theoretical and clinical seminars in critical theory, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology as we always have, and may schedule a conference in Southern California by 2018 or 19.

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