Exploring Levinas: the ethical self in family therapy

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Journal article
Larner Glenn 2008, 'Exploring Levinas: the ethical self in family therapy', Blackwell, vol. 30, no. 2008, pp. 351-361.
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From a systemic perspective, people are relational beings located in wider systems of interaction, conversation and meaning. As for social constructionists, the self is positioned and storied through language and dialogue. Yet is the self no more than the multiple conversations and relations it enters into? Systemic therapists informed by psychoanalytic thinking describe a reflective self, responsive to inner conversation about emotional experience (Flaskas, 2005). Those working in mental health services contend with the biological and `cognitive-mindful? self. Perhaps the self can be defined in many ways or languages as a deconstructive both/and. In this paper the systemic, relational or dialogic self in family therapy is discussed from the perspective of the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. For Levinas ethical intersubjectivity is what makes subjectivity and thinking possible. The self is respons-ibility to other or, as Derrida (1999) says, `consciousness is hospitality? (p. 48). Yet for both Derrida and Levinas the relational self is also a separate and unique self. The ethical self is discussed in relation to family therapy practice
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