‘The new image of the person‘ by Peter Koestenbaum – Philosophical background Part 2

Green Tea Way

Traditionally there are 3 disputes about the structure of being.

1. monism-dualism

Is reality made up of a unity or a duality? Is being one, two or many? This analysis is important on the problem of evil (the Catholic view is monistic).

The phenomenological description of being tries to resolve the epistemological and metaphysical monism-dualism dispute through the theory of the intentionality of consciousness. This theory holds that reality has two poles, that all being and all thinking is polarized. It also says that we are free to focus on either one pole or another. But we also able to perceive the total polarized situation as a unit.

2. idealism-materialism

Is ultimate reality consciousness or the object of consciousness? Mind or matter?

The idealistic view holds that reality is mind or consciousness, and that matter, or the object of consciousness, is illusion or dream. [Plato, Hegel]

Material: natural and the impersonal (the object of consciousness) are the ultimate and the real. [Hobbes]

Another group adopted the view that ultimate reality is part mind and part matter: Descartes, Spinoza, Locke.

3. rationalism-empiricism

Mind-Matter Interdependancy

Intentionality: mind and body are two regions of a continuous field. Mind creates body and body creates mind.

Subject (consciousness) = function of (Object)

Mind = f (Matter)

and viceversa.


* means that both statement are true at the same time.

Constitution and Cathexis

Constitution: refers to the fact that freedom, which is found in transcendental consciousness, has the capacity to organize the material it receives as data from the empirical realm literally into as many combinations as there are mathematical permutations of these data.

Communication depends on a consensual uniformity of such interpretations.

Psychological problems are often results of constitutions that fail to perform their expected pragmatic tasks.

Deconstitution must take place before Reconstitution.

Constitution: the process through which a unique world design and a personalized being-in-the-world are created.

Reconstitution is to create a new order.

The Constitution-deconstitution-reconstitution process is an art and not a science. Rigidity in constitution means obsession and compulsion, excessive liberty in the process leads to disorganized and asocial behavior.

Cathexis: identification, fusion. Indicates the attachment or the commitment that transcendental consciousness makes to one type of organization (ex. loyalty) and to one region within that constituted organization (loyalty to the family).

This latter region becomes the Ego, or Self, the Individual identity.

A person chooses an identity. But before an identity can be chosen it must be constituted as a meaning.

Thus, constitution means organization of meanings and cathexis means identification with or attachment to a specific organization of meanings.

Persons are responsible for their life-styles, their self-image and their world design. Such severe ascription of responsibility is one secret of successful therapeutic work. […]

The process of establishing an identity is to perform a cathexis […] We say ‘yes’ to zone A and ‘no’ to zone non-A. And that simple act of saying ‘yes-no’, that simple act of attachment-alienation, of involvement-estrangement, is the act of becoming a person and an individual.

Constitution and cathexis can be active or passive. They are usually passive, but we possess at all times the potential for transforming passive constitutions and cathexis into active ones.



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