Foucault's critique of psychiatric medicine

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 12 (4):311-333 (1987)
From his earliest published work, Mental Illness and Personality (1954), to his last project, The History of Sexuality , Foucault was critical of the human sciences as a dubious and dangerous attempt to model a science of human beings on the natural sciences. He therefore preferred existential therapy, which did not attempt to give a causal account of human nature, but rather described the general structure of the human way of being and its possible distortions. Foucault focused his attack on psychiatry, which claimed to have an explanation of normal and abnormal functioning of the personality modeled on medicine. Freud typified for him this deep mistake which he traced first to the Kantian understanding of human beings as transcendental/ empirical doubles which must think their own unthought, and then later to the gradually developing confessional practices which lead people in our culture to try unsuccessfully to put all their desires into words so as to conform to the norms of psychoanalysis which in turn are based on an account of sexuality as a cause of personality. Foucault proposed his genealogical account of how our culture arrived at this view of man as sexual being as a form of therapy which was to help us free ourselves from this restrictive self- interpretation. Keywords: normal, mental illness, sexuality, psychoanalysis CiteULike Connotea What's this?
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DOI 10.1093/jmp/12.4.311
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