ABSTRACT

In the first chapter of New Maladies of the Soul (1995), Julia Kristeva traces the history of mind-body dualism from antiquity through to the beginnings of modern psychiatry. Although monistic thought usually triumphs over dualism in the philosophical sphere because it does not need to explain how two distinct realms interact, Kristeva argues that 'the psyche', as a generator of meanings in the experiential sphere, 'shields us from biological fatalism and constitutes us as speaking entities'. 1 For monistic thinkers, dualism offers nothing but 'troublesome contradictions', but it provides the 'complementary dynamics of flux' at the heart of romantic science. 2 Just as early twentieth-century romantic science attempted to dispense with metaphysics, later practitioners, such as Erikson and Sacks, redescribe potentially contradictory elements as a symbiotic cluster of values, which cannot easily be translated into substances. It is this shift from 'substance' to 'meaning' which provides the twentieth-century tradition of romantic science with the impetus to address questions relating to experience, selfhood and health without being seduced at the outset into anti-empirical musings. Not only do alternative languages of the self enable romantic scientists to redescribe 'experience' in ways which free it from the spectre of metaphysics, but they embed the self firmly in the world of others: in Kristeva's words, they provide a 'bond between the speaking being and the other, a bond that endows it with a therapeutic and moral value'. 3