Issue 65 (Summer 2017)


I am delighted to have been asked to write the editorial for this special tribute to Bill Richardson S.J.

I wish to thank the contributors each of whom demonstrates a varied and particular reading of Freud and Lacan. I am reminded of Lacan’s comments at the 1960 Colloquium at Bonneval where he stated that it was interesting to note that ‘remarks made at a Colloquium such as this, inviting philosophers, psychiatrists, psychologists and psychoanalysts on the basis of their respective expertise, show how they fail to agree on the level of truth of Freud’s texts’.

Nevertheless what unites all these contributors is not only their fondness and admiration for Bill but above all what he transmitted to them and to others through his teaching. He was a dedicated and great teacher. It is known that in his desire to share his knowledge and love of philosophy, especially with the younger generation, he spent many hours listening to Bob Dylan and then lectured on the ontology of Bob Dylan!

It was Cormac Gallagher who introduced Bill to the work of psychoanalysis in Ireland. Bill assisted us greatly. He not only took part in Conferences but also served as a board member of The Letter since its inception in 1994 to his death last year. It is therefore fitting to note the paper Cormac chose for this tribute ‘A Stranger to Myself” because in so doing he chose a subject close to Bill’s heart namely, the formation of Religious, especially Jesuits. Bill would have appreciated so much Cormac’s daring questioning of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and his plea for an engagement with Freud and Lacan by those involved in religious formation. That said, we remind ourselves that Freud emphasised that psychoanalysis is not a Weltanschauung. Cormac would be the first to agree with this. Neither is psychoanalysis a religion. As Lacan pointedly remarks in Écrits: “we are neither for nor against any particular religion”.

The final tribute to Bill comes from Pope Francis who recently acknowledged his own personal engagement with psychoanalysis. Sadly, we are unable to include the Pope’s contribution in this edition of The Letter!

Helen Sheehan


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Articles in this Issue:

Issue 65 (Summer 2017) Pages 1-25

This paper seeks to find a philosophical relevance for psychoanalysis in the thought of Martin Heidegger. Given Heidegger’s rejection of Freud’s hypothesis, it raises the question whether or not he would have been equally hostile if it had been presented to him from a Lacanian perspective, as something structured like a language’. It endeavours to show the compatibility between certain basic Heideggerean and Lacanian concepts, focussing on the notions of being, truth and freedom.

Keywords: Heidegger; Lacan; language; Dasein; psychoanalysis.

Martin Heidegger was no friend of psychoanalysis. His first serious exposure to it came through the ministrations of Medard Boss, 1 who, in effect, introduced him to Freud. Mediated through Boss’s own attempt to rethink Freud’s insights into what he called Daseinsanalysis, Heidegger’s relation to Freud himself remained cool, to say the least. Several attempts in the 1950’s to entice him into dialogue with the so-called ‘French Freud,’ Jacques Lacan, whose self-proclaimed ‘return to Freud’ some found deeply consonant with certain themes of Heidegger, proved fruitless. Given this record, any new attempt to find philosophical relevance for psychoanalysis in the thought of Martin Heidegger seems ill-starred indeed. And yet . . . .

More must be said even to understand the problems involved. First of all, who was Medard Boss (1903-1990)? And how did he find his way from Freud to Heidegger (1889- 1976) in the first place? A Swiss physician and psychiatrist, he felt that the training he had received inadequate to prepare him to deal with the kind of clinical cases he had to face. But then he stumbled on Being and Time.  To be sure, one would hardly call his formation impoverished. He had…


Issue 65 (Summer 2017) Pages 27-32

As a tribute to the memory of Bill Richardson, this paper deals with the ongoing discussion between psychoanalysis and philosophy. It begins with Lacan’s poem, Panta Rhei  – with Heraclitus in mind, and goes on to consider the significance of Lacan’s translation of Heidegger’s Logos.

Keywords: Richardson, Lacan, Heraclitus, Heidegger, psychoanalysis, philosophy, Schreber, psychosis, language.

Martin Heidegger was no friend of psychoanalysis. His first serious exposure to it came through the ministrations of Medard Boss, who, in effect, introduced him to Freud. Mediated through Boss’s own attempt to rethink Freud’s insights into what he called Daseinsanalysis, Heidegger’s relation to Freud remained cool to say the least. Several attempts in the 1950’s to entice him into dialogue with the so called ‘French Freud’, Jacques Lacan, whose self-proclaimed return to Freud some found deeply consonant with certain themes of Heidegger, proved fruitless. Given this record, any new attempt to find philosophical relevance for psychoanalysis in the thought of Martin Heidegger seems ill starred, indeed. And yet… 

It is with this ‘and yet’ that I begin my effort to render homage to my friend Bill Richardson S.J. who died on December 10 th 2016. I met Bill in Paris in the late 80’s and for many reasons we quickly became friends. It is through this friendship that I began to understand something more of the Logos which binds and unleashes and also in whose company I had great fun. When Life got a bit difficult Bill’s favourite injunction was ‘you do the best you can’. This gentle imperative, in that beautiful Boston accent continues to serve me greatly.

Lacan paid Heidegger a visit in Freiburg during Easter 1955 and invited him to his country house the following summer on the occasion of a colloquium at…


Issue 65 (Summer 2017) Pages 33-42

For the memory of William Richardson,

with deep admiration and heartful gratitude.

This essay attempts to show how Lacan’s theory of psychoanalysis is illuminated by Slavoj Žižek’s reversal of the standard reading of Hegel: ‘Absolute knowing’ is to be read paradoxically (dialectically!) as a recognition of the limits of knowing, precisely a form of unknowing. For Lacan, the true outcome of psychoanalysis, the thing that makes it most profoundly transformative of the subject’s existence, lies less in an increase in the subject’s knowledge, a matter of what the subject comes to know about its history and constitution, than in a new engagement with what it doesn’t know. A good psychoanalysis reconfronts the subject with its own fundamental question.

Keywords: Lacan; Hegel; Žižek: psychoanalysis; knowledge


‘Of all the undertakings that have been proposed in this century, the psychoanalyst’s is perhaps the loftiest, because it mediates in our time between the care-ridden man and the subject of absolute knowledge.’

Jacques Lacan

Lacan’s well-known remark about psychoanalysis as mediating between Hei-degger’s man of care and Hegel’s subject of absolute knowing surely sounds a lofty note, but one might be forgiven for hearing it as something of a throw-away line. The reference to Hegel would seem to be more concerned with Hegel’s dialectic of recognition between master and slave than with his doctrine of absolute knowing. Indeed, most of what Lacan says about Hegel over the course of his teaching leads us to believe a) that he fully accepts the received notion of Hegel’s project as affirming a comprehensive metaphysical closure, and b) that he categorically rejects any such notion. Lacan’s assessment seems everywhere in line with the interpretation of Alexandre Kojève, from whom Lacan imbibed his primary contact with Hegel. For Kojève, absolute knowing…


Issue 65 (Summer 2017) Pages 43-62

In this article I accept the idea of Hyppolite that there is a great similarity between the dialectical changes analysed in Hegel’s Phenomenology and the changes aimed at through Freud’s psychoanalytic method. In both, the central idea pursued is that of ‘becoming.’ My contribution in this article is to show how Hegel develops a teleological becoming in which the future is the main dimension of time, whereas Freud, and also Lacan, aim in psychoanalysis at discovering a trauma in the past which the patient is invited to deal with and to accept. Psychoanalysis thus invites a searching of the patient’s past and is therefore archeological in nature. However similar Hegel’s dialectical method may be compared with the method used in psychoanalysis, I conclude that they have a totally different emphasis on the dimension of time they are preoccupied with.


More than thirty-five years ago William Richardson told me that he wanted to organise a discussion group on Lacan. He invited me because we had both been introduced to the ideas of Lacan by Professor A. De Waelhens at the University of Louvain, whose course focused especially on Lacan’s 1953 discourse in Rome. 1 The more than thirty years of discussion that followed have deepened my knowledge of Lacan and served me well when I tried (and succeeded) in the ‘Passe’—becoming a Lacanian psychoanalyst.

William Richardson made a name for himself with his book on Heidegger.  It was, perhaps, Heidegger’s attention to the importance of language that prepared Richardson so well for the even deeper exploration of meaning and language in Lacan. 3 I myself came to the ideas of Lacan by way of my interest in Hegel and my doctoral thesis on Freud’s idea of negation. Lacan, like…


Issue 65 (Summer 2017) Pages 63-72

Bill was a beautiful man. He was a wise, deep, elegant, curious, brilliant, scrupulous, angry, chivalrous, tormented, honest, kind, stubborn, inspiring, funny, loving, beautiful man. Above all he was a teacher. That is what Bill Richardson loved to do. To teach and write, write and teach, for sixty years of his academic life, mentoring and forming over three generations of students. And during all those years of masterful pedagogy, Bill was as challenging as he was inspiring. For every time he commented NG (no good) or MA (what do the Medievals say?) in the margins of an essay, he invariably added: ‘You can do it – encore!’

Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.


How are we to ‘interpret’ psychic traumas which seem to defy meaning and language? Traumatic wounds are by definition unspeakable. Yet from the earliest of literatures, we find tales of primal trauma which testify to a certain catharsis through storytelling. And we witness a special role played in such tales by figures called ‘wounded healers’. By way of exploring the cathartic paradox of telling the untellable, I will look at some examples drawn from both classical mythology and contemporary literature (including, James Joyce and Holocaust testimony).

My basic hypothesis is this: while traumatic wounds cannot be cured, they may at times be healed – and such healing may take place through a therapy of narrative catharsis. In short, healing by word. A transformation of incurable wounds into healable scars.



In Homer’s great epic, the hero Odysseus is condemned to act out the wound of his own inherited failure, his own existential finitude, again and again. The name Odysseus means ‘bearer of pain’ and we learn during the course of the…


Issue 65 (Summer 2017) Pages 73-87

I met Bill Richardson in the late summer of 1963. He had just completed his book on Heidegger 1 and was assigned to teach Modern Philosophy in the Jesuit seminary at Shrub Oak, New York, where I was a Jesuit in training, majoring in Philosophy. I was assigned to be his class beadle for the year. As beadle I made copies of readings, brought them to class, gathered assignments, made announcements, all as needed. It meant I also spent time with Bill, in his office or talking late into the night in one of the cottages on the grounds. He got to know my family members and eventually presided over their funerals. In later years a small group of a dozen friends who had all left the Jesuits met annually for a day-long cook-out. Bill was a faithful member of this group and we often joked that he would eventually outlive us all and bury us (as he did for four of us).

In time I completed graduate work in Clinical Psychology and Bill, teaching then at Fordham University in New York City, became known to Rollo May and his colleagues engaged in existential psychiatry. Through them he met Otto Will, MD, who had been at Chestnut Lodge (and was analysed by Harry Stack Sullivan and Frieda Fromm-Reichmann). Otto was then the Medical Director at the Austen Riggs Center, a small, private psychiatric hospital located in the western Massachusetts village of Stockbridge. Otto encouraged Bill to pursue psychoanalytic training at the William Alanson White Institute in New York City and afterwards to come to Riggs as Director of Research. It was in this context that Bill invited me to join him at Riggs. He came in 1974 and I arrived…


Issue 65 (Summer 2017) Pages 89-97

Alienation in the Spiritual Exercises

The need for Ignatian Spirituality to engage with Freudian psychoanalysis.

Keywords: Ignatian Exercises; Id quod volo; Freud; Lacan; Psychoanalysis


What I do is me: for that I came.

                                                              Gerard Manley Hopkins

What did I come into this world to do?

The honest man, I take it, comes to his spiritual guide with some such question as this. The praxis set out by St. Ignatius under the name of Spiritual Exercises gives the one to whom this question is addressed some indications as to what he should say and do in reply. It is his vocation to support the desire of the man who in asking so radical a question has exposed himself in his weakness to the uncompromising demands that may be made of him.

We were once the weak, generous ones who asked this question and sought someone who would guide us. Now we are the strong knowing ones and others come to us with their pleas. How are we to respond? This paper tries to tease out some of the implications of choosing to respond to our questioner by inviting him to do the exercises. Its particular focus will be the danger that in the process of doing the exercises the sense of the original question may be lost.

In 1939 Fr. Michael Egan, mathematician, poet and mystic, wrote an article called “The Prayer of Stupidity”. It was an article often recommended by spiritual fathers to those who were finding it difficult to persevere in their daily prayer. Many people found comfort in the fact that someone of Fr. Egan’s eminent wisdom saw value in sticking with a form of prayer which brought them little warmth and less light. In hands less skilful than Fr. Egan’s the doctrine…


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