In the name of the father: Dostoevsky and the spirit of critical psychology

Paul Stenner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


Through a discussion of Dostoevsky in relation to Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud, the argument is raised that metaphysical questions of spirituality were central to the emergence of modern psychology. Metaphysical concerns relating to the materialist translation of Christian doctrine and imagery were fundamental to Darwin’s interests, for instance, although they remained in his private notebooks. In this context, thinkers such as Dostoevsky and Nietzsche began ‘unmasking’ the hidden side of this developing positive knowledge of human nature. This unmasking was considered part of the emergence of a new and integrated ‘true’ psychology, and it took place during the very decades when modern experimental psychology was forming itself from a flux of possibilities. Freud’s development of psychoanalysis, itself heavily influenced by Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, as well as Darwin, must also be viewed in this context. A focus on the topic of spirituality thus necessitates a re-telling of the history of psychology, in which the re-working of spiritual semantics is central to the birth of the discipline. A consideration of Dostoevsky’s work hence becomes especially salient for critical psychologists articulating a discourse on spirituality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Psychology 8
EditorsValerie Walkerdine, Lisa Blackman
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherLawrence & Wishart
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)0853159785
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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