Fairbairn's “Psychology of Dynamic Structure” and Philosophy

Authored by: Graham S. Clarke

The Routledge International Handbook of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy

Print publication date:  November  2022
Online publication date:  November  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367276454
eBook ISBN: 9780429297076
Adobe ISBN:


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I have been involved in exploring the ramifications of Fairbairn’s psychology of dynamic structures since the early 1990s. I have been interested to show how his work relates to and evolves from the work of several other Scottish thinkers, in particular Ian Suttie, John Macmurray and Edward Glover. My attempts at a rational reconstruction of Fairbairn’s theory have led to a number of changes in the model he first puts forward in 1944 – a model, as I have tried to show, that is flexible and apposite to understanding film and other dramatic narrative too. In looking for the roots of Fairbairn’s theory, I was struck by the work of Andrew Pringle-Pattison, a British Idealist whose work from the early 20th century, a time when Fairbairn was studying under him at the University of Edinburgh, seems to have been influential on the development of Fairbairn’s mature theory developed in a series of papers written and published in and around the Second World War. Since I had already suggested that Fairbairn’s theory was consistent with critical realism, I welcomed the publication of Chris Smith’s To Flourish or Destruct, which develops a form of personalism that is consistent with Fairbairn’s mature theory. Personalism, critical realism and Fairbairn’s psychology of dynamic structure seem to me to be a fruitful conjunction for the further development of Fairbairn’s theory.

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