email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and NeurosciencePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychoanalysis as Biological SciencePsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis in a New LightPsychoanalysis in FocusPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy As PraxisPutnam CampQuestions for FreudRe-Inventing the SymptomReading Seminar XXReinventing the SoulRelational Theory and the Practice of PsychotherapyRelationalityRepressed SpacesRevolt, She SaidSecrets of the SoulSerious ShoppingSex on the CouchSexuationSigmund FreudSoul Murder RevisitedSpectral EvidenceSpirit, Mind, and BrainStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherSubjectivity and OthernessSubstance Abuse As SymptomSurrealist Painters and PoetsTaboo SubjectsTalk is Not EnoughThe Arabic FreudThe Art of the SubjectThe Brain and the Inner WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Late Sigmund FreudThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek

Related Topics
Reinventing the SoulReview - Reinventing the Soul
Posthumanist Theory and Psychic Life
by Mari Ruti
Other Press, 2006
Review by Laxminarayan Lenka, Ph.D.
Jan 23rd 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 4)

Ruti's Reinventing the Soul is a brilliant move in the game of soul-searching that philosophers have been engaged in for centuries to know what human life is and how one should live one's life. Her move is largely guided by Lacanian psychoanalysis and the philosophy of Heidegger and Nietzsche. Two of the important contributions for which this book can last long as an influential work in academics are worth mentioning. One, it contributes to post-structuralism, critical thinking and post-modernism by making the meaning of 'soul' compatible to these frameworks and, thereby, making these frameworks relevant for an exploration into the interiority of subjectivity. Second, it contributes to psychoanalysis by highlighting the ways in which the posthumanist soul is well understood and supported by psychoanalytic explorations. Combined together, it can open a new direction in philosophical anthropology that reflects on the nature of human life.

The soul Ruti talks about is neither theological nor metaphysical but psychoanalytic. Her objective is to 'reinvent the soul rather than to perpetuate its conventionally humanistic definitions' (p. 18). The reinvention consists of inventing narratives that enables the subject's psychic life to grow and experience its potentiality to get itself transformed out of 'lack', 'nothingness', 'loss', 'pain', and 'melancholy'. Heidegger, Nietzsche, Foucault, Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, Irigary and Cixous are the prominent figures Ruti has commented on to develop her idea of a posthumanist soul.  She is less concerned with who (of the thinkers) is right or wrong, but with 'what each thinker can bring to the table that is useful' (p. 25) for psychic transformation, for the elucidation of a psychic potentiality to overcome the impediments to its sense of agency.

"Self", "Soul", "Lack", "Past" and "Pain" are the five chapters succeed  an Introduction that briefly outlines the theme of  the chapters and elaborately answers why and how Ruti has undertaken this project of reinventing the soul. Drawing a parallel between Nietzsche's 'poetic life' and Foucault's understanding of 'art of living', in the first chapter, Ruti develops an affirmative alternative to post-Foucaultian conceptualization of subjectivity (subjected to hegemonic power). Following Nietzsche, Ruti holds that mythologies do structure and restructure our realities such that the artistic constitution of self has got the potentiality to create its mythology no less than that the hegemonic power does for its survival. Ruti explains how 'the pervasiveness of disciplinary power is for Nietzsche only half of the story' (p. 51). The narrative of self in the light of Nietzsche's 'poetic life' is, for Ruti, consistent with and contributive to the deconstructive move against 'collective mythologies that maintain fixed and wounding conventions not only of gender and sexuality but also of class, race and ethnicity' (p.51).

Ruti's talk about the soul is philosophical as well as psychoanalytic. Having concentrated on the views of philosophers like Nietzsche and Foucault in Chapter 1, she switches on to Freud's psychoanalysis to put forth a theoretical stronghold of her idea of a posthumanist soul. Linking soul with Freud's notion of psychic energy, she characterizes constriction of psychic life as a 'loss of soul' (p. 79). Making the distinction between fixed and mobile forms of psychic energy, she illustrates how the former leads to psychic pathologies and the latter to liberation from the wounding effects of the excessive familial, societal and cultural conventions.

Although 'autonomy of the self' and 'socio-culturally determined self' seem to conflict each other, for Ruti, neither of the two really matters and we can overcome this conflict insofar as self-actualization is concerned. Going beyond 'autonomy' and 'sociality', Ruti emphasizes on 'existential intensity' and suggests that 'self-actualization in the end has less to do with the choice between autonomy and society than with the intensity with which we are able to experience the various dimensions of our life- the autonomous and the social alike' (p. 101). To explain this overcoming of the conflict between 'autonomy' and 'sociality', Ruti adopts Audre Lorde's conception of Eros as a source of energy that permeates our entire existence. Her explanation follows her disagreement with Willett's excessive orientation towards community and her discussion on Oliver's criticism of Butler's 'performance theory'.

In Chapter 3, comparing Lacanian notion of 'lack' with Heidegger's concept of 'nothingness', Ruti demonstrates how lack, being a precondition of our existence, gives rise to innovative capacities and enables us to actualize ourselves as beings o f psychic potentiality. In her attempt to extract a theory of creativity from Lacanian psychoanalysis, she has dwelt on the Lacanian conception of 'signifier' -- 'the gift of speech', 'the humanizing principle'. Ruti's reading of Lacan puts the signifier 'as the posthumanist counterpart to the humanist soul' (p. 1550. The posthumanist soul animates the subject's psychic life, makes the subject innovative. Unlike the humanist soul, it never ensures psychic unity and wholeness, nor does it allow the subject to transcend 'the realm of human'.

Lack gives rise to desire and desire finds its expression through symbols. In employing symbols, accessing to signifiers, human subject exercises its creative potentiality to give new meanings and values to its life. For this creative expression of desires through signifiers, Ruti upholds the importance of a 'poetic dwelling', and equates true speech with what 'carries the meaning of the subject's desires' (p. 136). The desire she talks about is not surface pleasures but a kind of psychic inscriptions that arise out of lack; hence, she finds problem with Grosz's conception of desire that overlooks the distinction between erotic experience and desire. Moreover, Ruti reads Lacanian psychoanalysis as an ally, not an enemy, of feminist and queer theory.

Ruti maintains that self is a site of infinite complexity; it aims at psychic, bodily and intersubjective realities. Without lack the self cannot achieve these realities. For lack gets the self as well as the world space to move, enables them to prevent themselves from becoming 'deadly standstill'. In Ruti's words, "Without lack, there would be no space for movement, and without movement, there would be no space for transformation. There would be no psychic life. And there would be no soul" (p. 153).

Melancholy and psychic pain are the two other psychoanalytic topics besides lack that Ruti takes up in support of her thesis of a posthumanist soul. Chapter 4 highlights on the creative potential of melancholy, chapter 5 on that of psychic pain and suffering. Common to both the chapters is the concept of love that mediates between the loss that engenders melancholy or psychic pain and the signifier through which psychic potentially gets represented in innovative ways to render soulfulness, new meaning and value to life. Of course, chapter 5 concentrates on Nietzsche's philosophy of amor fate- love of fate- and chapter 4 on the kind of love that a subject develops by working through melancholia.

Ruti's exposition of Lacan's theory of melancholy and Kristeva's insights on meaning production indicates the strong relation she wants to underline between melancholy and signifiers. Further, an employment of Cixous's idea of 'writing' as the flow of words without effort, inseparable from love and sustaining 'the absent other as a living presence' (p. 181) suggests that there is one more way out of soullessness, namely, love. Beyond melancholia, the state of welcoming the other as other is a state of love, not a fusion-love but the love that preserves the "twoness" of the two individuals in love, the other is welcomed but the self is 'simultaneously respecting its integrity and wholeness, (p. 185).  Accounting Luce Irigary's 'dynamics of passionate love' and Silverman's analysis of 'active gift of love', Ruti succeeds in revealing that self's genuine love others is a development of working through melancholia.

In chapter 5, after drawing a distinction between the pain that debilitates and the pain that transforms, Ruti argues that the psychic pain and suffering that Nietzsche upholds in his affirmative epistemology of suffering has got the transforming potentiality. In this connection, she contrasts Nietzsche's stand-point with Schopenhauer's asceticism and interprets Nietzsche's philosophy of amor fate as a consoling philosophy of life that provides a narrative for soulfulness. 

One lacuna I find with this book is that, compared to what Ruti has said for her thesis of a posthumanist soul, she has said nothing about the antithesis, namely, the humanist soul. The least she could have taken up to avoid this lacuna is a discussion on soul as being depicted by Descartes in Meditations and by Kant in "What is enlightenment?".

Although Ruti does not refer to Wittgenstein, the philosophers of language persuaded by later Wittgenstein should seriously think now, if a private language can be reinvented parallel to Ruti's reinvention of the soul. Philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists can be invited too to reflect on the idea of a reinvented mind, parallel to Ruti's reinvented soul, which is neither Cartesian nor biological but a psychic energy responsible for mental activities.

Academically, this book is a valuable contribution to Lacanian psychoanalysis, critical thinking and philosophical anthropology. It can also be appreciated by scholars working in the area of postmodernism, feminism, philosophy of love, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, Freudian psychoanalysis, Nietzsche's philosophy of suffering or Heidegger's philosophy of nothingness. It is lucid in style and well organized; thought provoking for people seriously engaged in critical thinking, quite educative for the soul-searching public.


© 2007 Laxminarayan Lenka


Dr. Laxminarayan Lenka, Department of Philosophy, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, India, 793022.


Welcome to Metapsychology. We feature over 8200 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716