In this stimulating Paris Review interview with essayist-psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, Phillips touches on themes — progress (link) and non-progress (link) — near and dear to this blog’s methodological heart:
One advantage of thinking about psychoanalysis as an art, instead of a science, is that you don’t have to believe in progress. The tradition I was educated in was very committed to psychoanalysis as a science, as something that was making progress in its understanding of people. As if psychoanalysis was a kind of technique that we were improving all the time. This seemed to me at odds with at least one of Freud’s presuppositions, which was that conflict was eternal, and that there was to be no kind of Enlightenment convergence on a consensual truth. The discipline was practiced, though, as if we were going to make more and more discoveries about human nature, as though psychoanalysis was going to become more and more efficient, rather than the idea—which seemed to me to be more interesting—that psychoanalysis starts from the position that there is no cure, but that we need different ways of living with ourselves and different descriptions of these so-called selves.
Religions, in this heuristic, should likewise be seen as arts. This evolutionary diagram or ball-shaped “tree” of religions properly depicts this non-progressive development:
Addendum: We are having a good conversation about diagrams in the Comment section. This morning I came across a microscopic photo of the hair on a Gecko’s foot. It nicely captures some of our ideas about an ideal evolutionary diagram, one which is non-progressive and depicts hybridized (biological) or syncretic (cultural) lineages.